November 6, 2015

LAIC seeks Build Dakota partner

By Chuck Clement, Staff Reporter, courtesy of Madison Daily Leader

The head of the Lake Area Improvement Corporation is seeking local assistance for a new state education program that will help men and women receive technical educations and provide qualified employees for South Dakota companies seeking hirees for hard­to­fill jobs.

Julie Gross, LAIC's executive director, is currently looking for participants and businesses interested in joining the Build Dakota Scholarship Program, a new state education program that started this fall.

According to Gross, the Build Dakota program can provide "...a full­ride scholarship to go to a state tech school in exchange for working (in South Dakota) for three years." Gross said the scholarships are directed at "high­needs fields of study" that will help graduates becomes employed by in­state businesses.

In promoting the program, state officials state: "South Dakota is facing a workforce problem. Skilled trade industries like welding, manufacturing and automotive are severely understaffed, leaving jobs open and potential unfulfilled."

The scholarship program was initially funded with $50 million ­­ $25 million from the state's Future Fund and $25 million from billionaire T. Denny Sanford. The program's creators had hoped that the Build Dakota program could fund at least 300 scholarships annually for five years.

However, there are plans for the program's expansion. Gross is currently seeking local companies and businesses to help to grow the program so the scholarships can help larger numbers of students.

Program officials also stated, "With contributions from the community and industry, though, that number could grow rapidly." Supporters would prefer to see 400 students or even more assisted each year.

Sponsor businesses are offered free advertising in the employer section of the Build Dakota website, which program supporters say received 30,000 hits in three months. Employers can also choose the students they wish to sponsor.

Scholarship candidates could start filling out applications for the Build Dakota Scholarship Fund on Oct. 1. The scholarship recipients need to commit to living and working in South Dakota ­­ employed in their field of study ­­ for three years following graduation.

Both in­state and out­of­state students who show a financial need for assistance are eligible for the scholarships. The scholarship money can pay for tuition, fees, books and other program expenses in the eligible programs at South Dakota's technical institutes.

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