Career and technical education classes could end in Hill City

By Jeff Smith

Freshman Dakota Vann uses a woodburning tool for a beach chair project on March 29. Vann looks forward to woodworking every day.

On March 29, students in David Kelting’s woodworking class were making progress on their beach chairs that they have been creating. This is one of the many things students have worked on in Kelting’s shop space at the middle school.

The school board decided last month not to renew Kelting’s contract and the future of the industrial arts program in Hill City is unclear.

Kelting has been in the school district for 22 years. He has been teaching for 32 years.

“About two-thirds of the students in this school are going to be doing what I teach here,” Kelting said.

He thinks it is sad that the school district wants to take things like what is already there away from students.

“This is what is going to get them a job later in life,” Kelting said.

After they graduate, many students might go to tech school for welding. Currently, there are people out in the career field that got their start in one of Kelting’s classes.

“Kids are out there right now making more money than any of us teaching,” Kelting said.

Kelting has heard that 75 percent of the people in the country now are doing a type of manual labor job and using the skills that he teaches.

There’s a huge shortage of people who want to do those jobs as an older workforce retires.

“They can’t find the mechanics anymore. They can’t find the kids to help the carpenters and construction crews. People are begging for them,” Kelting said.

A lot of students know how to use computers and might go into an engineering job but then other types of jobs are going away.

Kelting estimates half of the students in his classes have gone on to a technical school. Some might go to a two-year school for nursing or to get a business degree.

A lot of students don’t know what they want to do after high school. Kelting’s classes give students a chance to understand what they like and dislike. Many students are growing up not wanting to go to a four-year college.

Kelting has seven classes throughout the day.

Students start with introduction to manufacturing and then there is welding, woodworking, carpentry and power technology II. There used to be an electronics and electricity class as well as a graphics communication class.

The welding class practices different welding techniques and an advanced welding class deals with metallurgy. An advanced welding class also learn about pipe welding that is in high demand right now.

In the carpentry class he teaches students build a shed that gives them an idea of how to build a house.

The introduction to manufacturing class is pretty basic. It teaches students how to read a ruler and learn about power tools

As with most projects, the beach chair project uses different tools.

“I like projects that utilize most tools in the shop,” Kelting said.

Another class is in the process of making a ladder chair.

Dakota Vann, freshman, said he wakes up and he’s excited to go to Kelting’s class.

“Pretty much everything I know about tools was learned from this class,” Vann said.

He said he had plans to weld in the future but it won’t be offered at school anymore.

Vann said Kelting is the greatest teacher he’s ever had.

“I wouldn’t trust anyone else to teach this class,” Vann said.

Kelly Feddersen, freshman, said she has learned to make things this year. If there are things that are broken at home, she now has the skils to fix some of them.

Feddersen said the program going away is a shame because a lot of people are looking into careers with welding and carpentry as a future.

More students might be taking more career and technical science courses at Western Dakota Technical Institute in the future.

Kelting doesn’t think every family will be able to afford to send children there because the classes can cost upwards of $700.

Another thing he mentioned is that not every student has a car. Plus there will be more danger in putting students on the road longer.

“There is still a slight chance that I can get my contract renewed for next year,” Kelting said.


  1. Cutting the career and tech class is a poor decision on the schools part. Welding is in big demand. although large companies are going to bigger technology with robots. I worked for Manitou Group, Kolberg pioneer in Yankton, SD. Mig welding is still in high demand. I no longer am living there I moved to Florida to work for Caterpillar INC. as a welder. I have been in the manufacturing industry for over 20 years. Welding has been my way of life. Although there has been some ups and downs as far as supply and demand as with all companies and the economy. Welding pay in Yankton begins around the 15.00 range. and goes to mid 20s. lots of overtime. generally benefits also are a great situation with all these companies which is also a big part of your pay. Just a eye opener for the school to hear. As far as skilled trades, Electrical is another field to make a good living. Since I had moved to Florida Caterpillar closed 20 plants and restructured there company. the Florida plant was one. I am currently working as a Mechanical Technician for IEM power systems. We build data systems for colleges, hospitals and power generator systems for military ships, ferry’s and tug boats. I also attended Hill City School District. Go Rangers!!!