UpSkill aims to bring education to displaced workers

Technical colleges offer certificates for qualified workers at a reduced cost
Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 10:31 AM CDT
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WATERTOWN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Those who lost work or can’t find any due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will now have the chance to start fresh in a new career field.

Technical colleges are preparing for UpSkill, the state’s new program aimed to assist workers who either lost their jobs or can’t find any due to lack of employment opportunities. It serves as an educational leap for those looking to find work in a high-need field, such as medicine or manufacturing. Governor Kristi Noem says that the program will allow those out of work to quickly get back in the running for employment.

“It’s going to give us the opportunity to our technical universities in a way that will give people an educational point, to where they can create a skill that will fill a job need that we have. That will get them into a higher paying job, and an opportunity that they didn’t have before.” said Gov. Noem.

So far the response from those in look of work has been numerous. Darren Shelton is an admissions counselor at Lake Area Technical College. He says that since UpSkill was announced, he’s seen an exciting amount of interest from prospective students.

“Between phone calls, email, and text messages so far, and active applications, I would say at least 20 contacts with students and 10 active applications. So as a college, within a 24 hour period, we feel very strongly that that’s a good sign.” said Shelton.

Shelton says he’s hopeful that the excitement continues, as the program is available to everyone, not just college-aged individuals. He says he’s hopeful that UpSkill will be a stepping stone for many into a new career.

“Well I do see some evolution to this. Because if you are getting an UpSkill and you feel that there’s more that you would like, an associate degree won’t be that far away for our students. So for those that are taking it this year and want to UpSkill even further yet, they can work with us and we’ll work with them on that.” said Shelton.

The date to submit an application to a technical college is August 13th. Applications are processed through the colleges and the South Dakota Department of Labor. Tuition of the program will be either free or reduced for qualified applicants. More information can be found on

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