Technical program paving career skills for Day County students

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WEBSTER, S.D. Introducing high school students to the variety of workforce industries in their community encourages more of them to stick around the area. There's a new technical program that's making a splash in the Webster area.

This new Career and Technical Education Center is placed in the same building as Webster's old vocational program: the business center on Main Street.

"We lost funding for that and it closed. It's sat vacant and we saw that this could be kind of nice if we could do something with it, so we [Webster Area Development Corporation] purchased it," Webster Area Development Corporation Vice President Dave Hahler said.

The vocational program left in 2006, but school officials have been trying to add certain steps to bring it back. The employment need around the Northeast also played a huge part in bringing this program back.

"I've seen the need firsthand to bring a program like this back to give our kids a technical education they need to enter the workforce and see different opportunities that are out there," Webster Scale Vice President Joel Shoemaker said.

Members involved in these industries in Day County have noticed multiple job openings at any given time. It's a good way to try and keep people in the area.

"Many of the kids want to come back here, but they don't maybe see the opportunity so we're really excited that this program is kicking off and they can be exposed to those careers that they might not have thought of before," Webster Area Development Corporation Melissa Waldner said.

These job skills are great to learn in high school to get a part-time throughout that process as well as in college. There's high paying jobs in the industry that many manufacturing and construction -type companies are looking to fill.

The program has seen a huge surge of support from students since the beginning of the year. The entire work area may not be completely put together, but students are still able to learn in the classroom and on equipment that's ready to go. Around 170 students from middle to high school will be involved in the Career and Technical Education Center throughout the year.

These types of programs that expose high school students to real world opportunities are mostly found in big cities. The Webster and Waubay School Districts are ready to show that small town communities can do it, too.

"We're in this together right? They're a small town, we're a small town and we need to support each other. We're proud to bring Day County and any other schools in the area that want to be a part of this. The doors are open to them," Career and Technical Education Center Director Amy Miller said.

The whole project started last year in November and in May, the South Dakota Department of Education awarded a $133,000 Workforce Education Grant. The Webster Area Development Corporation matched those funds and then some for the renovation of the building. Organizations in Webster and around the state have contributed about a half a million dollars to the program so far.

Miller says the program was lucky to hire a teacher with around 10 years of experience in construction and who's finishing up his teaching degree.

If you're in the Webster area and want to see what it's all about, there's a ribbon cutting and grand opening of the new high school program on September 27th starting at 1 p.m. It's located at 1209 Main Street.