High school, college students learn skills, find jobs through public-private internship program

June 11, 2018

This paid piece is sponsored by the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

It was senior year, and Josh Olson was feeling nervous about his future.

“It kind of snuck up on me,” the Washington High School student said. “I didn’t know what I really wanted to do after high school.”

A conversation with staff at the Career and Technical Education Academy led him to an internship at Malloy. He started in January in a role that allowed him to look into the electrical and engineering fields.

“It seemed like a good place to test the waters,” he said. “They had me do a little bit of everything.”

That’s the idea behind a new state program that brought industry together with the South Dakota governor’s office and the departments of labor and education.

Called Career Launch, it connects high school students with internships in everything from welding to health care.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard was inspired to ramp up the effort when he became chairman of the Western Governors Association last year and chose workforce development as the group’s collective effort.

“We’ve got people looking for jobs, job openings, but the skill sets people have don’t fit what employers need, so we’re trying to figure out ways we can address that,” he said.

It’s been a terrific fit for Malloy, which needs a technically skilled workforce to maintain and grow its operation. A key player in the motor, control and power transmission industry, its highly skilled employees test, repair and rebuild rotating equipment, electric motors and industrial equipment. Customers include power plants, wind farms, oil and gas, food, mining and renewable energy industries.

CEO Chris Houwman credits the state program with creating a learning environment that challenges students and gives them an opportunity to develop skills and career pathways.

“The governor and the departments of labor and education have come together to knock a lot of those barriers down,” he said. “They came together and listened to what industry needs and what workforce needs, and they delivered.”

The program meets the following goals, Daugaard said:

  • Improve the youth labor participation rate.
  • Teach foundational skills such as being on time, teamwork and customer service.
  • Taste test jobs, so students don’t spend time and money training for an occupation that’s not a fit.
  • Build valuable skills that can be applied within one or multiple industries.

For Olson, the internship has been an unqualified success. He recently graduated and will be working full time this summer at Malloy. He has decided he wants to work for a couple of years and then go to school.

“Just being here so much, I realized how good of a company this actually is. They were all super nice, super respectful,” he said.

Right behind him is Malloy’s next high school prospect. Tycho Clausen is an Eagle Scout and incoming senior at O’Gorman High School whose father encouraged him to intern at Malloy and consider becoming an electrician.

“It sounded like a good idea, and I’ve been enjoying it,” he said. “It’s like putting together Erector sets, so it’s enjoyable.”

His plan is to continue working at Malloy part time next school year and attend Southeast Tech after graduation.

“He’s going down the path of an electrical program at Southeast Tech, and we have a scholarship he will be involved with,” Houwman said.

The CTE Academy works with about 40 business partners to offer the internships for school credit. They range from auto mechanics to welders, veterinarians to dentists.

“We need more partners to continue to grow and have more opportunities and open more doors for kids,” principal Josh Hall said. “Chris has been great about opening doors and giving opportunities to kids who weren’t sure what they wanted to do but have found great experience with a great company.”

Eli Huber is another example of it.

A Menno native, he knew he wanted a career that allowed him to work with his hands as well as his head.

“It’s just a sense of pride when you can build a part or fix something and say, ‘Yeah, I did that.’ It’s a sense of accomplishment and pride,” he said.

Huber got connected to Malloy at Lake Area Tech. Malloy helped fund his full-ride Build Dakota scholarship in partnership with the state of South Dakota and philanthropist Denny Sanford, who helped launch the program several years ago.

After his first year learning precision machining, Huber is working this summer at Malloy.

“The team’s been great,” he said. “The guys I work with are awesome. They let me borrow their tools, and they’re always willing to help.”

“Eli has been doing a fantastic job,” Houwman said. “When he graduates, he’ll be working as a machinist at Malloy.”

Daugaard calls Build Dakota “a phenomenal success” with more applicants than scholarships.

“Happily, many employers are stepping up and adding to that,” he said.

Students are required to work in the field for three years or for the specific employer that funded the scholarship.

“And that’s working because in order to get a Build Dakota scholarship you have to apply in an area where there’s job demand,” Daugaard said.

Malloy also matches its high school and college students with established mentors in the workplace. These 30-year veterans work side-by-side with students helping them develop skills.

“There’s nothing better for both mentor and mentee than to have that relationship. The mentor is going to make sure they succeed,” Houwman said, adding continued investment as a business in these sorts of programs will be critical.

“If we want to expand, want to grow and be successful in the market, we recognize we have to invest in our youth and invest in scholarships and get involved. I can’t stress enough how employers have to get involved if they want to be successful.”

To see more workforce development strategies, read the latest edition of WIN: Workforce Information Now from the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

High school, college students learn skills, find jobs through public-private internship program

Thanks to state-backed programs and an employer partnership, students are getting a fantastic work experience and education at Malloy.

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