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October 19, 2017 05:05 PM

Wendell Talks Future Of Technical Education In South Dakota

How do you solve the problem of people leaving South Dakota? One man says the answer is a more accessible and affordable technical education in the state. This is just part of the vision Nick Wendell has for his new role as Executive Director of the South Dakota Board of Technical Education. The board is new, and will oversee the four technical institutes in Watertown, Sioux Falls, Mitchell and Rapid City.

Wendell, who lives in Brookings, is no stranger to making sure students have opportunities to succeed. For more than a decade, he has worked as the Director of the Center for Student Engagement at South Dakota State University.  He is now shifting his focus on a four-year education to two. 

"I'm thrilled with the opportunity to contribute. A lot of people have asked me about making the leap from my current position to this role," Wendell said.

The bridge to the gap between his current job to his new role is this: a passion for post secondary education and creating student success. 

"We have a big job, I think, of continuing to shift the narrative in the state of South Dakota about the value of technical education and what a technical degree can do," Wendell said. 

Wendell says that this is vital if we want to fill a workforce shortage in health care, automotive, engineering, and other hands-on industries. He says that's especially critical in rural areas of the state, where people are either retiring or leaving. 

"They want to maintain dental clinics and health care opportunities in those communities. They need a plumber and they need a diesel mechanic," Wendell said. 

Wendell also wants to unify the state's four technical institutions to better help them identify legislative needs and new sources of funding. As he shifts careers, Wendell's focus remains the same: help students build the best future possible. 

"There's so many things that are attractive about preparing a workforce that could put down roots in South Dakota and fill needs in our communities," Wendell said. 

The State Board of Technical Education was established by lawmakers. 

"Nick has a clear vision for making connections among students, business and industry, and the technical institutes to develop a pipeline of skilled employees for our state's high-demand careers," Dana Dykhouse, President of the Board, said in a news release. 

Wendell, who is from Gregory, begins his new job next month. So far, he will remain based in Brookings, but also have an office in Pierre and travel extensively through the state. 

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