‘Dirty Jobs’ host to hear Build Dakota success story

Sept. 13, 2018

When Mike Rowe visits South Dakota next week, he’s going to experience a tech education success story.

The former host of the TV series “Dirty Jobs” and CEO of the mikeroweWORKS Foundation will meet students who have benefited both from his foundation’s scholarships and the broader Build Dakota program.

“He’s very interested in the program and is probably the most engaged celebrity speaker I’ve ever run into,” said First Premier Bank CEO Dana Dykhouse, who is helping organize the visit and who serves as president of the Build Dakota board of directors.

Build Dakota, which offers a full-ride scholarship for technical education programs in high-needs fields, began in 2014. The fourth class will start in the spring.

In return for the scholarship, students commit to spending at least three years working full time in South Dakota.

“It’s just been great. We’ve got several hundred people who have graduated and are in the workplace right now,” Dykhouse said. “It’s just been a tremendous success.”

There are about 1,000 applicants annually for 300 spots, he said. Many who don’t receive full-ride scholarships are offered other financial help from the tech schools.

Fewer than 15 percent have fallen out of the program and had to repay their scholarships, he said, and a small number of scholarships have even been bought out by out-of-state companies so they could hire South Dakota workers.

“It tells you something about the upper Midwest job market that employers are willing to do that,” Dykhouse said. “And while we hate to lose a young person to out of state, we take the money and recycle it into another scholarship.”

Student success stories are mounting, he added. He met one young woman at a Build Dakota event recently who was among the program’s first graduates.

“And she said, ‘I’m not a welder anymore. I’m a welding supervisor.’ So in two years she’s supervising,” he said. “That demonstrates the great opportunity that’s out there.”

The program also is on track for financial sustainability, he said.

It was launched initially for five years with a $25 million donation from Denny Sanford and a $25 million contribution from the state of South Dakota. None of the state money has been spent yet, Dykhouse said.

“That $25 million is now $30 million at the Community Foundation, and we have more than 200 corporate partners now,” he said.

“The vast majority are companies with one scholarship. People are looking for that one or two good employees, and some are providing a scholarship every two years. Over 10 years, if they get five good people, that’s what they need. We do have some employers offering 10, 15 and 20 scholarships, but we have a lot offering one or two to meet their needs.”

Rowe will tour Lake Area Tech in Watertown on Sept. 20 and hold a community event at 11:30 a.m. He will visit the CTE Academy and Southeast Tech in Sioux Falls and speak at a 50th anniversary banquet for Junior Achievement of South Dakota at the Ramkota Exhibit Hall from 6 to 8 p.m. There are still some tickets available for that event. To learn more, click here.

“It’ll be fun having him in South Dakota,” Dykhouse said. “He’s just a great guy and a great spokesperson for tech education.”

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‘Dirty Jobs’ host to hear Build Dakota success story

The former host of “Dirty Jobs” is about to learn how South Dakota is filling in-demand jobs through full-ride scholarships.

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