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FEATURE STORY: Part I: Manufacturing Matters Because…

September 30, 2019

Part I: Manufacturing Matters Because…

From the perspective of two high school students


PIERRE, S.D. – As part of a two-part series, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development asked two high school students from T.F. Riggs High School in Pierre, South Dakota, about their opinion on the future of manufacturing and why it’s a vital industry to South Dakota and the global economy. Here’s what they had to say:


Name: Trever Wheelhouse, Junior

Plans for after graduation: Entering the workforce.

Name: Kenan Johnson, Junior

Plans for after graduation: Attend a two-year tech school for diesel tech

From left to right: Kenan Johnson, Tom Rogers and Trever Wheelhouse, T.F. Riggs High School.


What made you decide to take courses in welding/drafting/etc?

Trever Wheelhouse (TW): I have always been interested in hands-on learning. I feel like CTE (Career & Technical Education) courses will be beneficial for my future and the job I plan on taking after high school. The classes are also a great learning experience for me because I’m learning the proper and safe way to use tools.

Kenan Johnson (KJ): I have been around welding and mechanics most of my life, so it sparked an interest in me, also.


How has your perspective on manufacturing changed since taking industry courses?

TW: When I started in 9th grade, I was interested and curious about CTE courses and if they were really going to mean anything to me. Now, I am glad I got into them because of all the new experiences I’ve learned, such as, reading blue prints, designing houses, simple cabinetry, basic welding and many more things I think would be beneficial for everyone to know.

KJ: I have learned a lot on how very complex things can be in manufacturing.


What’s something unexpected you’ve learned about manufacturing?

TW: Something unexpected I learned was all of the little things you need to know about building a house. Building a house sounds simple—throw a few walls up and a roof then you have a house, but it’s really a lot more sophisticated than that. Building a house requires hundreds of hours of planning, then you have to get all of your permits find a contractor, know what screws to put where, what kind of wood you want to use in your walls and things so specific I can’t even explain.

KJ: I thought TIG welding would be easy, but it is an art to learn.


Finish this sentence: Manufacturing matters because…

TW: …without it, you would be living on the ground with no roof above you. Without manufacturing, millions of people wouldn’t have jobs, there wouldn’t be any houses, no cars and honestly anything that has to be built wouldn’t be there.

KJ: It drives the future of the world.


Governor Kristi Noem is so invested in technical education that she and U.S. Department of Education Deputy Secretary Mitchell Zais recently visited T.F. Riggs to witness the excellent programs offered at your school. What does this kind of interest and investment in your education mean to you?

TW: To me it means that they care about all areas of work, like blue collar as much as any other career. Hopefully they can help improve the shops and give many more opportunities for children to learn. Advancing the CTE courses could also get other kids interested in the high demand jobs that no one wants to do anymore.

KJ: It means we as students are getting a quality education.


What would you say to a middle school student who was considering taking welding and drafting classes in high school?

TW: I would tell them, “Absolutely.” I would explain to them the advantages and benefits it would give them later in life. I would tell them how easy it is and how much fun they will have. I would also inform them on the career opportunities available if they are really interested in a specific activity.

KJ: It is a good experience to learn even if you are not interested in it fully and it might get you interested in it for the future.


What can parents, educators, city and state leaders do to help grow and promote the manufacturing industry in South Dakota?

TW: To help grow and promote the industry I believe it would be a good idea to have several career fairs/construction days that all schools are welcome to attend. Host fun activities that will hopefully plant a seed in a student’s head and sprout the older they get. By the time they reach high school they can join Skills USA club and go compete for the career they want or take any of the CTE courses to help with basic requirements for industrial jobs.

KJ: Get more young students interested in it and hope they pursue a career in the manufacturing industry.

Mr. Tom Rogers, CTE teacher at T.F. Riggs also weighed in on a question:

Why does the manufacturing industry matter to our local, state and global economy? Why is it important for you to teach and advocate for careers in manufacturing?

Tom Rogers: Economic growth depends on the manufacturing industry, and both local and global economies rely on the manufacturing industry to drive this world we live in today.

Manufactured goods are necessary for trade. We need goods to trade for foreign goods or the US will continue to rack up a larger trade deficit.

We live in a world that is driven by technology. Technology has made our world and our younger workers a little less driven to the manual labor careers and jobs needed in today’s world. If we as CTE instructors don’t push students and promote careers in manufacturing, everything we rely on to survive and keep this world moving forward could come to a complete stop. We need students to enter manufacturing careers to keep driving this world as it continues to grow and change with more advanced technology on the horizon.


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