President Biden touts Dakota County Technical College’s educational outcomes

By: Tad Johnson and Kara Hildreth, The Sun This Week — Dec 1, 2021

He says DCTC is integral piece of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

Update: This story has been updated to include additional perspective on the visit from local officials

Dakota County Technical College student Sarah Riviere-Herzan said during President Joe Biden’s visit to the Rosemount school she plans to open her own construction vehicle repair company and hire an all-female staff. 

Her entrepreneurial dream was met with applause from the local officials and guests invited to the White House’s event to tout the recently passed $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Riviere-Herzan, who grew up in Eden Prairie and graduated from Minnetonka High School, enrolled this year in the college’s heavy construction equipment program, one of the many course areas that Biden says will turn out graduates to fill the millions of jobs created by the bill and the Build Back Framework.

“I want to serve as an example for other women that we can serve in the trades,” Riviere-Herzan said. 

Riviere-Herzan, who served 13 months with the U.S. military in Kuwait repairing large vehicles, praised the educational opportunities DCTC has provided her, including an internship at construction vehicle manufacturer Caterpillar.

Turning dreams like this into reality is what Biden, who was speaking from the vehicle maintenance classroom, says will be possible under the bill’s historic investment.  

U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, D-Eagan, who spoke during the event, said the long-overdue legislation, which passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support in November, will create millions of good-paying jobs that cannot be outsourced, create strong and sustainable economic growth and rebuild Minnesota’s crumbling roads and aging bridges. 

“My hope is that today our young folks and will see this story and it will help us promote the trades as wonderful choice,” Craig said.  

She said before the event that the college was selected because of its many programs designed to train and prepare the next generation of workers to build, operate, and maintain infrastructure supported by bill. 

She said DCTC is special for her, as her son took courses through its program for high school students. She also said another son received a technical education as a machinist and his career is fantastic. 

 Biden, who toured the college and spoke with staff and students, said that Craig has been an advocate of the college since it connects graduates to job opportunities. 

“These investments are going to change your lives — change lives for the better,” Biden said. “Schools like DCTC are going to help us do just that.”  

Craig said the bill will also shore up the national supply chain to bring down the cost of living for hardworking Americans.  

“Today’s event demonstrates that we’re working tirelessly to make good on our promises, and that we’re committed to working on a bipartisan basis to get it done,” she said in a statement.  

The bill was supported by 19 Senate and 13 House Republicans. 

The technical college also has enjoyed bipartisan support in Dakota County and beyond. It has been viewed as providing a quality education at a fraction of the price of most four-year institutions and places graduates in good-paying, high-demand careers. 

Among the DCTC programs geared to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are those in construction, manufacturing, transportation technology and other tech fields. DCTC has fired up new programs in construction management, industrial engineering technician and transportation management to meet the demand.

“Thanks for showing us what the future looks like,” Gov. Tim Walz said of DCTC. 

“I’m proud to highlight the work we are doing at Dakota County Technical College,” said U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, noting the economic challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has created. “You are looking at the answer right here. The education of these talented and diverse students will get us out of it.”  

In a statement, Minnesota DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said Minnesota is set to receive the following from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act:

– $4.5 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $302 million for bridge replacement and repairs over five years.

– More than $818 million over five years to improve public transportation options.

– $100 million to help provide broadband coverage, including access to the at least 83,000 Minnesotans who currently lack it. 

– More than 1 million or 18.9% of Minnesotans will be eligible for the Affordability Connectivity Benefit, which will help low-income families afford internet access.

– $680 million over five years to improve water infrastructure.

Biden said that we know about the infrastructure problems in America and Minnesota, referencing the Aug. 1, 2007, Interstate 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis. 

“It is time for action,” Biden said.  

He said the bill will continue the work to improve the nation’s infrastructure, citing examples like Saturday’s opening of the Orange Line bus rapid transit from Burnsville to Minneapolis and a water treatment plant in Coates. 

State Rep. John Huot, DFL-Rosemount, who serves on the bonding committee, said in an interview at the event: “This package that Biden is bringing forward is really going to help our state and our community, and one of the biggest things is that we have a lot of water problems in rural Minnesota and in Coates, and this bill will help Minnesota take care of those problems.”

When asked about potential infrastructure funds could benefit Rosemount, Rosemount Mayor Bill Droste said in an interview: “It is good for everyone because for cities it is all about public safety and infrastructure and schools.” 

Droste said it is great to have the event in Rosemount to highlight the college and training programs and the importance of technical workers needed for the infrastructure bill.

“DCTC is an economic development player for our business leaders, and we hear from our business leaders how they need a skilled workforce for their manufacturing, for trucking and for mechanical, HVAC, electrical,” Rosemount City Administrator Logan Martin said in an interview.

He said leaders at DCTC can put together customized training programs to feed right into a new employer’s needs. 

Rosemount will soon be home to a new Fed-Ex distribution center and there are already partnership discussions underway. Martin said the DCTC is considering a scholarship program for students who can be guaranteed employment with FedEX upon completion of the program. 

State Sen. Greg Clausen, DFL-Apple Valley, said the DCTC classroom that hosted the president serves a classroom for the vehicle maintenance program. He said he worked to get this program running about six years ago as part of funding from the state bonding bill.

“It really fits in with the infrastructure bill because people who are trained here are going to be out building roads, septic systems for cities and water treatment plants, and it is important we are bringing all this together with the training, and the money is coming from the federal government,” Clausen said.

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