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Director named for Southwest Career and Technical Education Academy

Aaron Anderson named first Director of Southwest Career and Technical Education Academy.

Aaron Anderson.jpg
Anderson has served twelve years as the State Supervisor for Agricultural Education with the North Dakota Department of Career and Technical Education in Bismarck. (Grand Forks Herald file photo)

A joint effort between Dickinson Public Schools, other area schools, legislators, industry representatives and community members have transformed the former Halliburton complex into the Southwest Career and Technical Education Academy. Currently, officials are awaiting nonprofit status approval from the state and federal government to launch its mission.

Since March of 2020, DPS, Dickinson State University, Trinity Catholic Schools, the Roughrider Area Career and Technical Center have teamed up to create a task force of 22 members to jumpstart the project. The task force has held 19 meetings and numerous subcommittee meetings that developed tentative programs of study, established a governance board in March and are now finalizing a business plan.

In November 2020, DPS purchased the former Halliburton campus for $6 million, which includes seven structures where five of the buildings will be tentatively remodeled for educational purposes. The preliminary estimate for renovations to convert the complex’s buildings from industrial use to educational is approximately $8 million.

On Wednesday, Dickinson Public Schools announced the hiring of Aaron Anderson to serve as the Director of the Southwest Area Career and Technical Education Academy (SWACTEA). Anderson has served twelve years as the State Supervisor for Agricultural Education with the North Dakota Department of Career and Technical Education in Bismarck. In that role, he led the overall instruction, funding and implementation of agricultural programs at the high school, college and adult levels across the state. In addition, Anderson served as the State Advisor for the North Dakota FFA Association.

Anderson's background as a high school CTE instructor and experience in leading CTE programming at both the state and national level is being touted by Dickinson Public Schools as an asset in developing the Career and Technology Academy for students in southwest North Dakota.

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"I'm excited to bring my experience and enthusiasm to southwest North Dakota and work with the high-quality CTE educators in our schools to enhance the career and technical skills training for the region," Anderson said. "The partnerships this academy will develop with area high schools, Dickinson State University and business and industry will help strengthen the region's workforce, prepare students for success and keep our kids at home in western North Dakota."

The SWACTEA Task Force has collaborated for more than a year on developing a regional CTE Center. The interview committee consisted of future governing board members representing different entities and the region as a whole.

“We are excited about the leadership and experience Mr. Anderson brings to this project," Dr. Marcus Lewton, Dickinson Public Schools Interim Superintendent, said. "This is an exciting step for our community and the southwest region.

Lewton noted that the project is critical in developing and expanding workforce opportunities in North Dakota.

“I think the biggest opportunity is the pathway it provides for different organizations — whether that's Dickinson Public (Schools), Trinity, DSU, Stark County, Billings County, Dunn County, whoever — to work together and to provide training opportunities for today's youth," he said. "The Southwest, as a region, isn’t a very populous area… So for us to provide opportunities for our kids and to meet the demands of the local labor force, we have to work together.”

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