College, organization team up to bring a new diesel technician program to Aberdeen

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ABERDEEN, S.D. There are two colleges in the Hub City, but neither focus on technical careers and more specifically diesel technicians. But, that's all about to change. Aberdeen is going to see a brand new diesel technician program in its community thanks to a partnership with Lake Area Technical Institute.

The Aberdeen Development Corporation staff noticed a need for diesel technicians in the area, so they brought their concern to LATI. The Diesel Technology program offered through the college is the second largest program of study on campus. With the rising interest in the field in South Dakota and throughout the nation, it only made sense to bring it somewhere it can benefit those who can't uproot and move for two years.

"They've had quite a few students apply to their program and with the industry need, we thought this would be a nice program to bring to the Aberdeen community," Aberdeen Development Corporation Director of Training and Educational Programs Jill Vining said.

Enrollment for the program offered at LATI is full in January with a space limitation of 84 students, with a wait list of eight students and 17 more are pending. The Diesel Technology program had to increase to 99 students after a request from the governor.

Plenty of companies in the Hub City are also pitching in to help make it successful. "The businesses are actually helping come up with students and also upscale their employees and they're also offering lab experiences within their companies," Lake Area Technical Institute Vice President Diane Stiles said. "So with everyone working together we can make it work. We can make it successful."

The program received the Workforce Education Grant through the South Dakota Department of Education. Around $250,000 of the grant is going towards setting up the space in town. Without the help of the grant, LATI and the Aberdeen Development Corporation wouldn't have been able to set up shop because of the expensive equipment and tools needed for the program.

Professors from LATI are working together to create the curriculum for the Aberdeen program. Right now, only courses will be offered but an apprenticeship model and a two year degree are in the works.

The diesel technician program in Aberdeen already has big plans for the future. "We're looking at offering dual credit opportunities to get students in high school interested in the diesel technician field and to get them credit that transfers when they go on post graduation," Stiles said.

This multi-phase project is just in the beginning, but has the potential to keep diesel technicians in the area.

LATI and the Aberdeen Development Corporation are holding an open house for the public on Thursday, August 10. It starts at 12:30 p.m. and is free for anyone to attend. The building is located at 2919 Industrial Avenue in Aberdeen. It's encouraged for anyone interested in the diesel technician field to attend.