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U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education visits Pierre classrooms

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On Sept. 19, Mitchell Zais, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, visited T.F. Riggs High School in Pierre to tour the technical education classrooms and discuss the importance of career and technical education (CTE).

Zais had earlier visited the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City.

Zais, Governor Kristi Noem and local officials first chatted with instructors and students on an individual basis, then held a press conference in one of the garage/mechanic-rooms. Some of the dignitaries discussing matters with Zais included Senator Jeff Monroe, Representative Mary Duvall and Deputy Secretary of Education Mary Stadick Smith.

Noem asked the instructors and students about the high school technical programs, and what made these successful. Zais reiterated his stance that ‘one size does not fit all,’ and that students and parents must be flexible — everyone learns differently. Noem rehashed that South Dakota currently has many open jobs and many job seekers. Workers simply do not have the skills needed to fill the jobs. Zais said this is the situation nation-wide.

Zais encourages businesses to reach out to schools, to work as partners in order to “grow your own workforce,” said Zais. “Like people, all schools have similarities but are all different. It is fun to watch the students learn, and there is an optimum size for a classroom and for a school program.”

“The state is streamlining licensing programs and making it so folks can receive training on the job, get a wage to pay the bills, and get the skills they need to move into a higher position,” Noem said. “If we can lift families and people into higher paying jobs, it’s a win for everybody. Programs like what we’re looking at today are how we get our future generation interested in these types of careers and get jobs that pay very well,” said Noem.

Noem praised the state’s Building South Dakota scholarship program that encourages students to eventually live and work in South Dakota. She also praised the South Dakota Week of Work program, in which 10th-grade students explore different career opportunities in their communities through job shadows, industry tours, and other business-classroom connections and for employers to connect with their future workforce.

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