Southwest CTE Academy to move forward with creation of board of directors, awaits federal grant

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SCTEA officials submitted a grant proposal in hopes of securing $ 10 million from the North Dakota Career and Technical Education Grant. However, the grant was delayed due to certain federal guidelines. Anderson said they likely won’t hear about the grant until the special legislative session in November.

“We are thrilled to hear the results of these grants and to secure seed money to help transform this space. We have received generous support from our communities and then we hope to start expanding our reach from a private donor aspect, ”said Anderson.

Six schools have officially signed up to be part of the SCTEA, and include Dickinson High School, Trinity Catholic Schools as well as South Heart, Belfield, Killdeer and New England Public Schools. Anderson said he hopes more schools in the Southwest region want to be included as this project progresses.

The governance board will be composed of six members and is structured so that each member of the board is drawn from one of the participating schools in the academy. Dickinson Public Schools will have two board members as the school will have over 600 students enrolled in the programs. Additionally, there will be a board member from each public school – which includes Belfield, South Heart, Killdeer and New England. Due to the Century Code, Trinity Catholic Schools would not have a voting board member because it is a private education system, Anderson said, adding that they would serve as a support for discussions. .

With SCTEA, program offerings will be “very intentional” to help meet the needs of not only students but also the business sector in southwest North Dakota, Anderson said, adding that they are currently leading additional needs assessment to survey students and businesses. community. To date, approximately 700 students and 60 companies have responded to the survey. The results of the survey will be discussed on November 3 and 17 during a round table with 12 to 15 business leaders present at each session. Over the next few months, there will be a total of four sessions that will give the SCTEA Board of Directors a better understanding of the programs they want to prioritize and that will meet the needs of local employers.


– Aaron Anderson, director of the Southwest Career and Technical Education Academy

Prior to joining Dickinson in July, Anderson served for 12 years as State Supervisor for Agricultural Education at the North Dakota Department of Vocational and Technical Education in Bismarck. In this previous role, Anderson led general education, funding, and the implementation of agricultural programs at the high school, college and adult levels across the state. Working with all of the CTE centers in North Dakota and experiencing not only the good ones but also the challenges these centers have faced has prepared Anderson for his current role, he said.

“My hope here is to put all the good things that are happening in the state, in the region, in the country and put them into one. There aren’t many people in the state who … (have had) the opportunity to work with all of these CTE programs in the state, and so I’m excited to bring these experiences to the Southwest Area CTE Academy. and bring it to life, ”he said. “But we’re unique in that we have an advantage over a lot of other centers in the state because we have a very willing post-secondary partner at Dickinson State. They want to be at the table; they want to see it happen. We have a strong business and industry group here in Southwestern North Dakota that is very diverse and wants to get involved in providing experiences, exposure and training for students to enable them to be successful in their career. future careers, whether in manufacturing, agriculture, careers in health, hospitality … as the energy sector. “

During his first few months as director of SCTEA, Anderson said he learned that support for this project was increasing as there was a desperate need for this type of facility in the southwest region of l ‘State. From a legal and financial point of view, it is important to consider how this project will develop in the years to come, he said, explaining that the authorities plan to make it a long-term sustainable facility in order to that it does not impose a huge financial burden on students. and school districts.

“There is going to be a significant investment in vocational technical education in southwestern North Dakota and we want it to be a quality investment that will produce a strong workforce and keep our children here in the south.” -West of North Dakota, ”he noted. “We continue to have great conversations with Dickinson State University in their dual mission of establishing vocational technical education programs. The center here is going to house both high school programs, CTE college programs and (the) hopes to expand into adult education and training offerings for all of Southwest North Dakota. The long-term goal is for this center not only to meet the needs of our high school and college students, but to meet the needs of anyone looking for training and certification for their future. career. But it doesn’t happen overnight … I think it’s totally doable. It’s exciting. But it takes a lot of planning to make sure that happens.

An inside look at the old Halliburton campus offers a "blank canvas" for the proposal of the Academy of Careers and Technical Education South West in Dickinson.  (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)

An inside look at the former Halliburton campus provides a ‘blank canvas’ for the South West Academy of Career and Technical Education proposal at Dickinson. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)

Since March 2020, DPS, DSU, Trinity Catholic Schools and Roughrider Area Career and Technical Center have teamed up to create a 22-member working group to launch this project. In October 2020, the DPS voted to approve the $ 6 million purchase of the former Halliburton campus, which includes seven structures, five of which will be tentatively renovated for educational purposes. The preliminary estimate for renovations to convert the complex’s buildings from industrial to educational use is approximately $ 8 million.

Once the board is established, officials will start to look at what programs they want to deliver with the goal of having nine to ten operational programs over the next 18 months to two years. However, it’s also essential to think with a futuristic mindset, Anderson said. For example, although automotive technology programs have traditionally focused on gas combustion engines, the automotive industry is shifting to electric vehicles.

“We want the programming of this academy to remain very fluid, because we know that there are always ever-changing employment needs and that the technology is constantly evolving. And so, we want to design spaces (and) offer flexible programming so that we can change if there is suddenly a high demand within the industry, we have to move on to that, ”Anderson said. .

Looking ahead, Anderson noted that they would send out a request for proposal with architects and construction companies, allowing the project to move forward in the design and construction of the space, industrial to education. From there, the next steps would be to create an installation plan and stagger construction through the spring, summer and fall of 2022. Anderson said they would like to have online programming as soon as possible. next fall.

“In the meantime, while we are developing this facility, one goal and one thing that we are considering is to create mobile learning labs. These learning labs – thanks to the supporting sponsorship – will allow us to bring the technology to the students in their schools, ”he said, adding that a prime example would be the incorporation of mobile meat labs into the classroom. various agricultural classes within these six schools that have partnered with the academy.

Director Aaron Anderson of the Southwest Career and Technical Education Academy is pictured.  (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)

Director Aaron Anderson of the Southwest Career and Technical Education Academy is pictured. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)

By August 2023, the SCTEA is tentatively scheduled for full installation completion. Several educators from DHS CTE will be moving to the academy, Anderson said. As programs are developed, the SCTEA will need to hire additional staff, which may include reviewing the current CTE staff in these partner schools.

As director of SCTEA, Anderson works closely with community members, prioritizes future programming, identifies spaces on the former Halliburton campus that will work and those that need to be redesigned. He is assisting with current DHS CTE programs and working on partnering for this project as well as “keeping an eye on this facility, making sure it doesn’t rot” before construction takes place.

“It’s one of the challenges of this project to take a big space – an industrial space – and make it meet the educational needs,” Anderson said. “It’s not at all turnkey. None of the facilities are turnkey. And so, we want to be very intentional in making sure that our design build meets the educational needs of our students here in Southwestern North Dakota. “


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