Eye on KELOLAND: Filling a need in the health care industry


WATERTOWN, S.D. (KELO) — It’s good news for people who are considering a career in the health care field.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment in health care occupations is projected to grow 15 percent from 2019 to 2029.

That adds up to about 2.4 million news jobs.

Grace Wolff is studying to become a registered nurse.

“I’ve always had a really big passion for taking care of people,” Lake Area Tech student Grace Wolff said.

The LPN is getting her education at Lake Area Technical College.

She and many other students get to work in a brand new facility this fall: the Prairie Lakes Healthcare Center of Learning.

The new simulation labs are one of the top features.

“It’s new, and it’s really conducive to our learning. It’s really great to have a new place like this that we can come to and practice on mannequins like this, practice in labs, and practice with each other,” Wolff said.

The new 24,000-square-foot space is made possible with more than $2 million from the state and more than $3 million from Prairie Lakes Healthcare System.

“Typically when technical colleges build it’s paid for by an additional facility fee on the students and they pay it off over time, but this we were able to build without putting that burden on the students,” Lake Area Tech president Mike Cartney said.

The partnership between Lake Area Tech and the local health system goes way beyond this new center.

“Their students spend up to 12,000 hours a year in our facility as they go through their educational programming, so we see them as a part of us and that we’re a part of this program to help train the health care workforce of the future,” Prairie Lakes Healthcare System CEO & president K.C. DeBoer said.

The work on the Prairie Lakes Healthcare Center of Learning isn’t done just yet.

A 49,000 square foot building that the new space is connected to is currently being renovated.

Lake Area Tech President Mike Cartney says when it’s all done there will be room to add 300 more students in health care programs.

“That will help to add those students into South Dakota’s workforce pipeline and meet some of that critical need that we have,” Cartney said.

Prairie Lakes Healthcare System President and CEO says the need is there.

“Workforce in health care in the future is a constant concern for people who work in the industry. We know that we’re going to continue to need new trained, highly-educated professionals to work to take care of the community in the region for Prairie Lakes and for other facilities across the state. Our workforce in health care is aging, and they bring new bright faces to us that will be there to care for us when we need care down the road,” DeBoer said.

That’s why the college is making more room for students like Wolff.

“I love it, absolutely love it. I’m super excited to continue to go to clinical sites and work in the sim labs, and work with my instructors and graduate next July,” Wolff said.

Cartney says a strategic plan calls for seven new buildings to be added to campus.

The college now has five more to go.

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