• Pierre, SD (12.2.14) – Opportunity. That’s what educators and development officials are hoping to create for their high school students with the newly established Career & Technical Education (CTE) machinist program at the Sturgis Brown High School. Through two Future Fund grants totaling $189,967, awarded by Gov. Dennis Daugaard to the Meade School District and the Sturgis Economic Development Corp (SEDC), and an additional $99,999 from USDA Rural Development, the new CTE machinist program is looking to grow.

    The new CTE machinist program will relocate from the high school to the Sturgis Industrial Park, a South Dakota Certified Ready Site, once a 5,100 square-foot industrial incubator facility is completed in 2015. A portion of the facility will house the CTE machinist shop and classroom, in addition to offering space for industrial start-ups companies. According to Pat Kurtenbach, SEDC President, it will also have the capacity to offer training space for other Northern Hills high schools, and could benefit adult education as well.

    “Metals-related manufacturing is a large component of Sturgis’ industrial sector and a huge contributor to our economy each year,” said Kurtenbach. “These funds are helping to not only develop commercial and industrial growth, but ultimately it’s investing in the future—our future workforce.”

    Because metal fabrication, welding and other metals-related manufacturing are key economic drivers for the Meade County economy, Kurtenbach says the new CTE program will have a profound impact on other offshoots of the metals-industry as well; everything from oil and motorcycle industries to the SHOT industry (Shooting, Hunting & Outdoors), which undeniably is another one of the area’s major draws.

    “Rather than looking elsewhere, we’re investing in a quality workforce and providing opportunities that are already here,” Kurtenbach said. “As students complete the CTE program, they also gain dual credits. This allows them advanced access to secondary education at a lower cost, which also means faster entry into the workforce. In addition, three local businesses, Bar-Sto Precision Machine, Horizon Machine and Legend Air Suspensions, are providing on-the-job-training through internship programs.

    But it doesn’t stop there. “Entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to lease space in the new incubator facility, giving them a chance to excel and move up within their current company, or start their own, ultimately creating new positions for machinists and welders,” Kurtenbach added.

    Kurtenbach says the metals industry has created a sense of synergy in the community over the years. Sturgis Industrial Park businesses help each other out by sharing best practice tips and offering a helping hand when needed. Continuous relationship building is part of what has kept the industry prosperous.

    “Ultimately it is our goal to show our students that opportunities are plentiful here in Sturgis and Meade County. Hopefully that encourages them to stay and tap into entrepreneurial opportunities here in the Black Hills,” said Kurtenbach. “Not only will this grow our existing companies, it will open doors for other companies to come and do business in South Dakota. Since the CTE program will soon relocate to our South Dakota Certified Ready Site, it gives potential prospects even more incentive follow suit and do business with us.”