The Governor’s Office of Economic Development asked two students from Mitchell Technical Institute (MTI) in Mitchell and recipients of the Build Dakota Scholarship, about their opinions on the future of manufacturing and why it’s a vital industry to South Dakota.
Tom Shaw, 20, White Owl, is a second-year welding student. Tate Dewey, 19, Box Elder, is a second-year welding-manufacturing-technology student.
This is what they said.
How did you find out about the Build Dakota Scholarship? Shaw, “I found out about the scholarship through my guidance counselors in high school. They knew I was interested in welding and brought the full-ride scholarship to my attention. My high school welding teacher also encouraged me to fill out the application.” Dewey, “I learned about the Build Dakota Scholarship from visiting MTI before I was a student.”
What does earning a degree in a manufacturing-related field mean to you? Shaw, “Earning a degree in a manufacturing-related field means I have learned the skills needed to get a job in my related field. I think it shows employers that you see things through to the finish, and that you have learned several skills that will be beneficial, if they hire you.” Dewey: “A degree in welding manufacturing shows not only that you know how to weld, but you understand the economics, science and technology used.”
Do you have a full-time job lined up after you graduate, and if so, where? Shaw, “I do not currently have a job lined up for after graduation. I am looking at all options.” Dewey, “No, I do not, but I am currently contacting companies.”
How does your employer support your continued education? Shaw, “My current employer supports my continued education and understands why I choose to continue with it. They understand I am gaining valuable skills and expanding my abilities.” Dewey, “My current employer supports my education by being flexible with my work schedule.”
If you were talking to a young student who was considering manufacturing, what would you tell them? Shaw, “I would say to young students that manufacturing is a great career path to go into. There are countless opportunities in the field of manufacturing and lots of room for growth. I would also tell them that if they are considering going to school, to make sure to apply for the Build Dakota Scholarship.” Dewey, “I would tell a young student to keep an open mind and take in all the information while they can, because the more you learn and understand, the more you will get paid.”
What’s something unexpected you’ve learned about manufacturing? Shaw, “Something unexpected I’ve learned is the number of different paths you can take in the field of manufacturing. I had no idea that choosing welding would lead to so many different career opportunities. Dewey, “I honestly didn’t expect to learn robotic welding and programing as quickly as I did, and how relevant robots are in manufacturing.”
Has your perspective on the manufacturing industry changed since entering a continuing education program? Shaw, “I would say that since entering a higher education program, my perspective on manufacturing has changed minimally. The main thing that has changed for me is that I learned you might start out somewhere low on the ladder, but if you earn it, you will move up rapidly.” Dewey, “My perspective has not changed on manufacturing, but I have realized that I have found myself more suited toward field or construction-based welding.”
Travis Peterson, Head of Welding & Manufacturing Department at MTI weighed in on how today’s generation of manufacturing has an impact on shaping the next generation of manufacturing. “We work closely with our industry partners, many of whom serve on our advisory board, who help change and tailor our curriculum almost every year to better prepare our students when they enter the industry full-time. From recommending new equipment to expanding curriculum in manufacturing math or ordering software like SolidWorks and AutoCAD, our industry partners are crucial to helping us produce a skilled-workforce that will last 10-20 years after our students graduate.”
“The network of leaders, educators and advocates in the manufacturing industry over the years has grown and become stronger and more involved. In Mitchell, we have the Mitchell Area Manufacturers Association (MAMA) who genuinely support MTI and invest in our students. After graduation, many of our students remain in the community and go to work for our partners involved in MAMA,” said Peterson.
“Our programs have 100 percent placement — in fact, we still don’t have enough students to fill all the available jobs. But, thanks to the network we’ve built, starting at the state government level to manufacturing associations and schools, both technical and high school, we’re starting to fill that gap,” said Peterson.