The History of Regional Technical Education Center

What the community and region recognize as the Regional Technical Education Center or RTEC in 2009 is really the culmination of many activities which date back nearly a decade. In September 1999, the Business and Industry Training director at Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls suggested that the STI administration would establish a satellite training center in Yankton if the community could furnish a building. By May of 2000, Yankton Area Progressive Growth had rented a building downtown to serve as the training center site and coordinated a fund drive for remodeling and equipment. In October, this downtown location opened with Southeast Tech and Southeast Job Link, a Career Learning Center, leasing space from STI.

At the same time, two local employers Aalf’s Manufacturing and Gurney Seed & Nursery, announced in 1999 and 2000 that they would be closing their Yankton operations. Trying to turn negative situations into a positive, YAPG and the City of Yankton, through Planning and Development District III, applied for and in 2001 received federal EDA grant money that was used to purchase and remodel the former Aalf’s Manufacturing building, just northwest of the Yankton High School and Summit Activities Center.

Another fund drive was conducted, the remodeling was complete and Southeast Tech and Southeast Job Link moved into the building at 1200 W. 21st St. in May 2002. That same month Gov. Bill Janklow awarded the project a $205,000 grant to complete the second phase of the remodeling project. That phase was finished in April 2003.

By summer of 2003, major changes were occurring at Southeast Tech and training activity by Southeast Tech had slowed at the training center. By January of the following year, a group of local leaders and stakeholders met to find ways to salvage the training center. They shared their vision with Gov. Mike Rounds in April 2004 when the governor and several of his cabinet members, including Secretary of Labor Pam Roberts, were holding Capitol for A Day in Yankton.

In June of 2004, Southeast Tech announced it would cancel its lease effective Sept. 30, 2004. Representatives of the local training center’s advisory committee, Southeast Tech and the Secretaries of Labor and Education, a representative of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and a staff member from the Governor’s Office met to discuss the future of the training center.

Before long, a nonprofit South Dakota corporation was formed that could later become an IRS 501(c)3 corporation. The purpose was to create a private technical education program which became approved by the SD Secretary of State as the Regional Technical Education Center, Inc. in August 2004. A 24-member board of directors was formed and funding was received to cover a program coordinator’s position for three years.

In October 2004, RTEC assumed management of the building and programs at the training facility known then as the Technical Education Center. In its early years, RTEC relied on members of its board to volunteer time and expertise to manage the nonprofit organization and it contracted with Southeast Job Link to cover day-to-day activities.

Gov. Rounds announced that RTEC would receive a $50,000 start-up grant from the Future Fund in May 2005 and Labor Secretary Roberts presided at the official ribbon cutting at RTEC’s Open House a month later. By 2006 the board had hired its first general manager and RTEC had received a $60,000 grant from the Alcoa Foundation. It enabled RTEC to lay the groundwork and begin a high school training program with the Bon Homme School District.

Today, RTEC operates under the direction of its second General Manager, Josh Svatos, three full-time employees, one part-time employee and numerous contracted instructors and training providers. RTEC features customized “rapid response” training programs to meet the needs of employees and employers in the region and it has earned the distinction of operating one of the two American Welding Society (AWS) Accredited Test Facilities in South Dakota.

In addition to offering welding and other customized trainings, RTEC also serves as a host for programs offered by our partners – Northeast Community College, Mitchell Technical Institute, Black Hills State University, Avera Education & Staffing Solutions and others. These and other programs will be enhanced by the addition of nearly $90,000 in new training equipment awarded by the SD Department of Labor in the spring of 2009 through federal stimulus funding.

Through it all, RTEC’s goal has remained the same over the years – to offer high quality, accessible, affordable technical education and training opportunities which can enhance the ability of individuals to obtain and retain employment while also finding creative learning experiences which will serve to “homegrow our own workforce.”

“RTEC’s goal has remained the same over the years –
to offer high quality, accessible, affordable technical education and training opportunities
which can enhance the ability of individuals to obtain and retain employment”

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