By: Jodelle Greiner, The Brookings Register

Nick Wendell was named executive director of the South Dakota Board of Technical Education on Wednesday, according to a press release from the office of Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

“Nick has a clear vision for making connections among students, business and industry, and the technical institutions to develop a pipeline of skilled employees for our state’s high-demand careers,” said Dana Dykhouse, president of the board.

Wendell confirmed to the Register that he’s taken the position and he will continue to live in Brookings and serve on the Brookings City Council. He was elected in April 2016 to fill the seat left open by Scott Meyer’s move out of state. The term will expire in May 2018, and he has not made a decision on whether to seek re-election.

Wendell is currently director of student engagement at South Dakota State University and will begin his new position on Nov. 6.

The salary for the position is $100,000. Wendell was chosen from a field of 70 applicants, which was narrowed to four finalists.

“This position really is at the intersection of my professional and my personal passion, but it seemed like an opportunity that was just too great to pass up,” Wendell said.

The Board of Technical Education is a new entity and the members were appointed by Daugaard this summer.

“The board really came about after the passage of Amendment R and Senate Bill 65 established a board that would oversee the four technical institutions in the state,” Wendell said.

His job will be to work with that nine-member board to advance the legislative agenda of the technical institute system, to help address enrollment needs, funding needs, advocate in the Legislature with local industry partners on behalf of the four technical institutes in the state “and really just work with the board to advance the technical education in South Dakota,” Wendell said.

His work on the city council and in Leadership South Dakota has shown him that technical education has momentum in the state.

“I really had an opportunity to talk to business and community leaders throughout the state and in almost every community I was in, I heard about the workforce challenges facing our state,” he said.

He feels the answer is to create more graduates from the technical institute system to address the challenges.

Wendell thinks his job at SDSU has prepared him because he works with students in career development and exploration, helping them find long-term employment and career placement after they earn degrees, and helping them focus on success and retention in their chosen fields.

“This is my professional passion, but my personal passion really is … all communities in the state of South Dakota thriving and passing on a state filled with communities that are better for the next generation and better prepared to meet the needs of the next generation,” Wendell said.

The newness of the board and the position of executive director holds no apprehension for him.

“It presents a pretty neat opportunity to start with a clean slate. There’s a long list of things to do and that is daunting, but the opportunity to create something new and partner with board members who are very passionate about technical education is pretty exciting,” Wendell said.

Although Wendell will not be leaving Brookings, he will be on the move.

“We had discussed my desire to stay in Brookings to fulfill my term on the city council. I’m connected to the community, of course, and have a 9-year-old daughter here, so this position will entail a considerable amount of travel,” Wendell said.

That’s why he felt the board was willing to allow him to stay in Brookings because “insisting that somebody move to Pierre … may not serve the needs of the position.”

Wendell expects to spend time in Pierre – where he will have an office – getting to know government officials and working on behalf of the technical institute system, especially through the legislative session. But he wants to spend time at the technical institutes in Watertown, Mitchell, Sioux Falls and Rapid City, and the smaller communities served by those facilities.

“Our four technical institutions are scattered throughout the state. It really needs to be somebody who’s willing to be mobile and be aware of where folks are and where the work is happening and where the relationships need to be built,” Wendell said.

He wants to go where he’s needed.

“I think it’s gonna be really important for me to be on the ground in those communities, getting to know those institutions, their leadership, their students, their industry partners,” Wendell said.

“I’m excited about what we’ll be able to create together,” he said.

Contact Jodelle Greiner at jgreiner@brookingsregister.com.

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