A longtime Sioux Falls business is helping Southeast Technical Institute keep its promise of better preparing students for the future.
Smithfield Foods Inc. gifted the tech school with a five-year, $250,000 donation toward its Southeast Tech New Opportunities for Workforce Development campaign at the Economic Outlook Seminar in Sioux Falls on Tuesday. The capital campaign, the school’s first, was established in 2018 with the goal of offering programs that fill gaps in South Dakota’s workforce.
Robert Griggs, president of Southeast Tech, said Smithfield’s donation is directed specifically toward the development of an American Veterinary Medical Association-approved veterinary technician program at the school. The money will go toward building a 4,500-square foot classroom and lab space.
“Smithfield is very committed and part of this community,” Griggs said. “The donation is really an investment, not only in Southeast Tech, but in helping South Dakota build a highly skilled workforce.”
In addition, $500,000 of the campaign’s funds is being matched by the Governor’s Future Fund, giving the school more than $1 million, Griggs said.
At the seminar, Gov. Kristi Noem lauded Smithfield’s commitment to community development.
“They have chosen to have a heart. They’re a company that continues to help people,” she said.
Smithfield President and CEO Ken Sullivan expressed the company’s desire to support Southeast Tech’s goal of furthering economic growth in the region, especially related to trades like electric, HVAC and manufacturing.
“All these things, I think we’re in need of. They keep the infrastructure running,” Sullivan said. “I think what Southeast Tech is doing … is critical for society.”
As far as Smithfield’s interest in the veterinary tech program, Sullivan said its involvement in animal agriculture spawns a need for veterinary technicians.
“We have a vertically integrated business,” he said. “We’ve got needs all along our supply chain.”
Smithfield is not the only entity looking to assist in the school’s efforts to better prepare its students for the future workforce. Southeast Tech has also received boosts in funding from the city of Sioux Falls. The city council approved $100,000 of the city’s 2019 budget to go toward the campaign.
The school’s commitment to offer a veterinary science program was one of the reasons Councilor Christine Erickson felt compelled to support its growth.
“That’s not offered anywhere in the state of South Dakota now and that is something that is very important,” she said last fall. “And there are jobs that need to be filled.”
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