After getting her beef with the Governor's fiscal stinginess off her chest, Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-4/Big Stone City) trumpets some good news from her district: the new Midwest Training Academy in Gary!
Congratulations to Joe Kolbach, owner of Buffalo Ridge in Gary, South Dakota for his foresight, time, energy, and financial backing to start the Midwest Training Academy. He and his supporters restored part of the former South Dakota School for the Blind (what hadn’t been restored to a hotel/restaurant) into dorm rooms and classrooms for foster children who have outgrown the system and veterans. Course offerings include hospitality (hotel supervision), trucking, welding, and wind energy maintenance. The courses are six to eighteen months with guaranteed jobs. What an amazing program! These young people will great additions to our workforce and to our society. Thank you [Rep. Kathy Tyler, "And We Have a Surplus, Again...," Kathy's Corner, 2013.07.22].
The Academy's grand opening made KELO last week. That report says that Joe Kolbach's newest project will prepare its students for jobs that should pull average South Dakota wages... which is a huge improvement over how aged-out foster children usually end up:
The average salary will be in the mid $30,000 range for graduates.
The academy's programs are targeted to growing industries in the Mount Rushmore State, something Governor Dennis Daugaard says will help South Dakota.
"It's a win, win, win," Gov. Daugaard said. "It will help employers fill jobs, help foster care kids and young soldiers get training, and it will fill a need that matches up job skills with job openings."
Within the first 18 months of foster children "aging out" when they turn 18 - up to 50 percent are homeless and a quarter will be in jail [Hailey Higgins, "Free Academy Helps Veterans, Former Foster Kids," KELOLand.com, 2013.07.18].
The Academy provides similar data on the difficulties veterans face in the labor market:
The young United States veterans who are returning home from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan face a unique set of challenges that not only include significantly higher unemployment rates than the general population but also significant and unique needs in terms of occupational performance.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that one out of three veterans 18-24 were without work the last quarter of 2011, more than double the civilian rate. Even more compelling were the unemployment rates for women veterans whose plight is nothing less than stark. The year 2012 saw some limited improvement in these employment numbers but nothing close to the improvement that was seen in the general population.
In a joint study between the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Association and the Prudential Insurance Company, veterans named “finding a job” as the “greatest challenge in transitioning to civilian life,” and reported that “transferring military skills to a civilian environment was a major hurdle” [Midwest Training Academy, fact sheet, downloaded 2013.07.23].
According to a Buffalo Ridge Resort press release from last fall, the Midwest Training Academy is a pilot program receiving its first two years of funding from a private non-profit organization. The program will have a couple of years to prove its ability to help foster kids aged 18 to 24 and veterans aged 20 to 25 and earn further donor support.