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Lake Area Technical College Wins National Award for Outstanding STEM Education

Posted on: September 30, 2020   |   Category: News
2020 Siemens Aspen Stem Award

WATERTOWN, SD, September 30 –The Welding Technology program at Lake Area Technical College has been named a winner of the Excellence and Equity in Community College STEM Award by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program and the Siemens Foundation.

Eight winning programs across the country are receiving this award for not only providing outstanding preparation for high-demand jobs in advanced manufacturing, energy, healthcare, or information technology, but also for their intentional outreach and support of diverse populations that typically are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers.

Winning colleges will receive $50,000. Half will be allocated for program development, and half will be allocated as scholarships for outstanding students, known as Siemens Technical Scholars.

“Our welding program is not just another welding program,” said Mike Cartney, President of Lake Area Technical College.  “It has an extensive history of student success with diverse populations in the STEM field.  The Welding instructors “own” their program, care deeply about every student no matter their background, are focused on individual success, are highly creative in getting every student to the finish line, and cherish seeing every student graduate and start their careers.”

 Overall, U.S. jobs in STEM fields are projected to grow at almost double the rate of non-STEM occupations. More than half of all STEM jobs across the United States require no more than an associate’s degree and pay wages that average more than $50,000 annually.

The community colleges honored with the Excellence and Equity in Community College STEM Award are playing a unique role in working to meet this demand. The selection committee identified exemplary programs that deliver exceptional training for jobs that require strong STEM technical skills, some classroom hands-on training, and a postsecondary credential below the four-year degree. Importantly, these programs are successful in reaching and supporting populations that are underrepresented in STEM fields, such as students of color, low-income students, and females.

“Community college STEM programs are a strong pathway to job security and financial success for many students—whether that means heading right into a great-paying job or getting a more advanced degree,” said David Etzwiler, CEO of the Siemens Foundation. “This award recognizes the colleges that provide an excellent STEM education and develop talent from every community.”

 The Lake Area Technical Institute (Lake Area Tech) Welding Technology program has provided a regional welding workforce since 1980.  Welding students receive training in welding and fabrication applications and may earn a nine-month diploma or a two-year Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree.  Students may opt for advanced training in advanced welding, precision machining, or business.  Students may also receive training through non-traditional routes via apprenticeships, Learn Where You Earn, and Corporate Education.  Welding graduates are employed as welding technicians and supervisors, fabricators, pipe fitters, inspectors, and entrepreneurs. The retention rate the welding students is 83%. The most recent placement data reports the average wage for welding technicians six months after graduation is $21.46 per hour.

 As part of the award, Lake Area Technical College in partnership with the Aspen Institute, will select students to be recognized as Siemens Technical Scholars and receive a scholarship of $3,500 to $10,000 to continue their education or pay student loan debt. These diverse scholars will share their stories with their peers to demonstrate the economic opportunity available in STEM careers.


About the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program: The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program aims to advance higher education practices, policies, and leadership that significantly improve student outcomes. The program is part of the Aspen Institute, a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society.

About the Siemens Foundation: The Siemens Foundation has invested more than $122 million in the United States to advance workforce development and education initiatives in science, technology, engineering and math. The Siemens Foundation’s mission is inspired by the culture of innovation, research and continuous learning that is the hallmark of Siemens’ companies. Together, the programs at the Siemens Foundation are closing the opportunity gap for young people in the U.S. and igniting and sustaining today’s STEM workforce and tomorrow’s scientists and engineers. For further information, visit http://www.siemens-foundation.org/ or follow @sfoundation.

About Lake Area Technical College: Lake Area Technical College is a public two-year college located in Watertown, SD.  The college was selected in 2017 as the #1 Two-Year College in the Nation by the Aspen Institute for Community College Excellence.  The 40 acre campus is home to approximately 2600 full and part-time students enrolled in 30 different programs of study both on-campus and online. The college has an 84% retention rate and 99% placement rate for graduates. Lake Area Tech is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.  Learn more at www.lakeareatech.edu