SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – A new program has started within the Sioux Falls Police Department that collaborates with Southeast Technical College. The Career Cadets Program will give community members the chance to learn about a career in law enforcement while earning credits toward an associate’s degree.

Like many police stations across the country, the Sioux Falls Police Department has struggled to hire new officers.

“I think people are looking at innovative ideas on how to really get people involved in law enforcement,” Sioux Falls Police Chief Jon Thum said.

That’s why the department has started the Career Cadets Program with Southeast Technical College to provide an alternative path toward community members becoming police officers.

“They’ll be mentored one to one by a seasoned law enforcement officer. They’ll learn the ins and outs of city government, how our community works. Along with that, our partner with Southeast Technical College provide them with 12 credits of college to assist them,” Lt. Rob Forster with the Sioux Falls Police Department said.

“This partnership is in direct alignment with our mission at Southeast Technical College to educate individuals for rewarding careers that promote a lifetime of success and meet the workforce needs of our region,” Britney Mower, Dean of Curriculum and Instruction at Southeast Technical College, said.

Cadets will join the police department in a part-time civilian role all while working toward an associate’s degree at Southeast Technical College.

“We want to make opportunities. If you’re passionate about your community and if you’re passionate about making a difference in your community, we want to support that and be able to create this and the Sioux Falls Police Department has a spot for you,” Thum said.

The department has also worked with other city entities to alleviate certain barriers for cadets. Once enrolled, they can receive a laptop from the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, childcare assistance from the Hope Coalition and healthcare assistance from Falls Community Health.