WATERTOWN, SD – The Watertown School Board named Lake Area Technical Institute Vice-President Michael Cartney the next president of Lake Area Tech during a special school board meeting Monday. Cartney, a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, has been Vice-President at Lake Area Tech since 2007. He and his wife, Harriett, reside in Watertown.

“We look forward to Mike’s leadership and Lake Area Tech’s continuing progress as one of the top four two-year colleges in the nation,” said Dr. Lesli Jutting, Watertown School District Superintendent.

Cartney will assume the position on July 1, 2014, following the retirement of current Lake Area Tech President Deb Shephard.

“I am truly honored and humbled by the board’s decision and I enthusiastically accept the offer of President of Lake Area Technical Institute,” Cartney said.  “Lake Area Tech is my passion. I love LATI, its people, and its mission.  And, this community is where I grew up, its values are my values, its future is my future. I know there are some big shoes to fill with Deb’s departure.  Lake Area Tech is one of the top schools in the country and we will maintain that stature. Together, with the Board’s and Dr. Jutting’s support, I am up to the challenge.  I see a bright and innovative future for Lake Area Tech. A future focused on our students, and built on the foundation of culture, caring, regional partnerships, and national leadership that are the hallmarks of Lake Area Tech. I look forward to the future as I am sure that together, we can make great things happen.”

Born south of Pierre, Cartney moved to Watertown with his family in 1970 and graduated from Watertown High School in 1977. His father, Jim Cartney, founded Cartney Bearing, and Mike’s brother Ken and nephew Travis operate the Watertown and Aberdeen stores.

Cartney earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from the Air Force Academy in 1981, an Organizational Leadership Certification from Squadron Officer School in 1984, a Master of Science degree in Numerical Analysis for EDP from Purdue University in 1986, a Senior Leadership Certification from International Command and Staff College in 1994, and was a National Fellow to Harvard University in 2000.

During his time at the Air Force Academy, Cartney taught and was aide-de-camp. While completing his fellowship at Harvard University, he was an associate professor and also wrote a Harvard Press publication, “The Art of Balancing Information Sharing and Security.” Cartney’s last military assignment was as liaison for the Air Force Academy to the White House and Congress. He is highly decorated for duty from the Cold War, Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Desert Fox, Bosnia, Kosovo, the Global War on Terrorism, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Noble Eagle.

The Lake Area Technical Institute Car Club will host its ninth annual Car Show for a Cause Saturday, April 26, 2014. The car show and all events will be held in the Lake Area Tech Automotive Technology building from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The car show entry fee is $10.00 with registration from 10-11 a.m.

Show classes include Custom Paint & Fab Choice, Automotive Technology Choice, High Performance Engine Machining Choice, Best of Show, and People’s Choice.  Other events running throughout the day include a dunk tank and a 50/50 drawing.

Funds raised from the show are designated each year to a cause selected by the students. For the last two years, the students chose to donate the proceeds from the annual Car Show and Car Care event to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of South Dakota. The local chapter received $2011.77. For the 2014 event, the Car Club members have again designated the proceeds to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of South Dakota.

Admission for the public is $1 and concessions will be available. To register for the Car Show, contact the Lake Area Tech Automotive Department at 605.882.5284 ext. 219, email, or click here:

26 Mar 2014

Three To Interview for President’s Position

Author: Karen | Filed under: News Release

Three candidates have been chosen to interview for Lake Area Tech’s presidential position. Read the details here:

24 Mar 2014

Lake Area Tech Adds Agri-Aviation Option

Author: Karen | Filed under: News Release

PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Board of Education approved the addition of an Aviation option for Lake Area Technical Institute’s Agriculture program.  The nine-month diploma option will begin this fall. Students may enter the option and graduate with a diploma or enter the option after completing LATI’s Agriculture or Aviation programs. Graduates of this option will obtain a private pilot’s license and be trained to work in the field of agriculture aviation as an aerial application pilot, aerial application technician, or aerial application owner/operator.

According to LATI President Deb Shephard, the Agri-Aviation option will be the first of its kind at technical institutes in South Dakota and one of only a handful in the nation. The option was developed because of a demand for ag pilots due to the rebound of general aviation and the Baby Boomer exodus from the job market.

“The program will draw students primarily from South Dakota, North Dakota, western Minnesota, and Nebraska but opportunity exists to draw from across the nation,” Shephard said. “LATI will primarily provide skilled workers to employers in South Dakota and neighboring states but, very feasibly, to any region of the country.” Shephard said.

For more information on the new Agri-Aviation option, please visit

WATERTOWN, SD – An innovative donation from Titan Machinery in Watertown will offer Lake Area Tech’s Diesel Technology students valuable hands-on experience with the latest global positioning technology.  Through the Lake Area Technical Institute Foundation, the company has donated a Trimble GPS System for installation in a Case Puma tractor to complement LATI’s existing technology.

“We recognize that it’s important for students to have access to advanced precision technology,” said Larry Nielsen, General Manager at Titan Machinery in Watertown.  “The wave of the future is here and we are pleased this GPS system will be used as a training module that provides students advanced learning opportunities.”

Using the new GPS system, students will gain practical hands-on training and experience that will offer them an advantage upon graduation. “Sending well-trained students into the work force is essential,” Carl Tesch, LATI Diesel Department Supervisor said. “We are grateful for Titan’s support and we look forward to implementing the new system into our program yet this semester.”

Currently, 128 students are enrolled in the Lake Area Tech Diesel Technology program.  The two-year curriculum teaches the complete general diesel knowledge along with specific emphasis in agriculture, industrial, and truck diesel.

WATERTOWN, SD – Lake Area Tech has completed its employment survey of the 2013 graduates and is reporting that after just six months, 98% of the graduates are employed or are continuing their education.  Of those continuing their education, a majority have returned specifically to Lake Area Tech to complete the second year of their nursing degree or pick up another program of study.

In addition to the overall high placement rate, 88% of the respondents reported they are employed in South Dakota, and at competitive wages.  Vice-President Mike Cartney comments, “Not only are Lake Area Tech graduates landing good jobs, but the salaries these graduates are getting are outstanding.” Twelve programs reported an average hourly wage of $16.00 or more, plus excellent benefits and five of the programs saw salaries over $20 per hour.  Cartney continues, “This is good news for everyone. The number affirms that Lake Area Tech is providing graduates the skills they need to be successful.  It also demonstrates that employers recognize Lake Area Tech graduates as valuable employees.”

Of the 592 graduates in 2013, 578 responded to the annual placement and wage survey.   The survey is conducted annually by the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulations and is used as a benchmark for Lake Area Tech and the state of South Dakota in strategic planning, as well as recruitment and advising students.

20 Feb 2014

Med/Fire Rescue Program Earns Accreditation

Author: Karen | Filed under: News Release

WATERTOWN, SD – The National Board on Fire Service Professional Qualifications approved Lake Area Technical Institute for accreditation for its Med/Fire Rescue program. The accreditation includes the following levels and standards:

  • NFPA472, Hazardous Materials Awareness, 2008 Edition
  • NFPA 472, Hazardous Materials Operations – CORE Competencies and mission Specific Competencies: Product Control and Personal Protective Equipment, 2008 Edition
  • NFPA 1001, Firefighter I and II, 2008 Edition
  • NFPA 1003, Airport Firefighter, 2010 Edition

The Pro Board Fire Service Professional Qualifications System accredits organizations that use the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA’s) professional qualification standards.  Troy Breitag, LATI MFR Department Supervisor, said the accreditation process began with the submission of an application, including a detailed self-study document.

“Our application was reviewed by members of the Committee on Accreditation (COA) for completeness and compliance with the accreditation criteria of the Pro Board,” he said.  “Following that, a team of COA members completed an extensive on-site review of our testing and certification processes.”

LATI was notified in January that the committee had approved the request for accreditation. “That’s great news for LATI and for our students,” Breitag said. “While we feel graduates of our MFR program are more than ready to work in the med/fire rescue field, the accreditation of our program is an additional means of recognition that acknowledges professionalism in the fire service and related fields.”

LATI’s Med/Fire Rescue program is the only program in the state and region to have both the Pro Board accreditation and Paramedic Program accreditation through CoAEMSP – Committee on Accreditation for the EMS Professions. Graduates of the 20-month MFR program earn an Associate of Applied Science degree and have the option to transfer and articulate credits toward a Bachelor’s Degree at a four-year university.

19 Feb 2014

All-Campus Read Event Kicks Off at LATI

Author: Karen | Filed under: News Release

Watertown, SD – The second-annual All-Campus Read at Lake Area Tech kicks off on Wednesday, February 19. The event was established last year in an effort to encourage reading for fun.

“All-Campus Read was organized to promote literacy and enjoyment through reading,” explained LATI Librarian Nicki Yackley-Franken. “Our goal is to encourage Lake Area Tech students and staff to read for pleasure.”

Interactive activities will complement the book selected for the group to read: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Participants are invited to join in activities such as online and guided discussions. A creative arts contest for Lake Area Tech staff students is also planned in conjunction with the book. More details regarding the events as well as a link to the All-Campus Read Facebook page can be found on the Lake Area Tech website at

LATI All-Campus Read activities will conclude with the announcement of the All-Campus Read creative arts winners on April 17.

Students, staff, and readers of all ages are invited to join the LATI-All Campus Read. To participate, simply pick up a copy of the book, watch for upcoming events on the website, and start reading!

In recognition of its contributions during the 2013 tax filing season, Lake Area Technical Institute has been named the South Dakota VITA Site of the Year by the Internal Revenue Service.

For more than 20 years, second-year students in LATI’s Financial Services program have participated in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program that offers free basic income tax filing services to members of the public who meet program guidelines. The VITA Site of the Year Award is awarded to a South Dakota VITA site that demonstrates filing accuracy in addition to the number of completed returns. VITA sites include community centers, libraries, schools, malls, and other convenient locations.  Last year, there were 65 VITA sites in South Dakota including LATI. The IRS also named LATI the SD Site of the Year, which recognizes the top performing site in all categories.

Sally Solum, LATI Financial Services Department Supervisor, said the students are well-prepared through coursework, but they must also pass a rigorous national VITA certification examination prior to the filing season. “Studying for and taking the national exam not only educates the students on tax laws and filing procedures, but it addresses all aspects of working with the public including ethics and interview techniques.”

Solum said approximately 200 customers a year come to LATI for the tax service. She said it’s a win-win situation for everyone as students are introduced to the professional aspects of working with customers during this service-learning experience, and the customers are able to obtain tax filing assistance free of charge from VITA-certified students.  Before filing occurs, a quality review process is completed on each return.

“As an instructor, I couldn’t begin to write out all of the different tax situations that our students face when our customers walk through the door,” Solum said. “It’s a great experience for everyone.”

The Financial Services program students will begin taking VITA customers on February 4. Walk-ins are welcome from noon until 3 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays in room 203on campus through March 6. Customers who make less than $52,000 and need assistance in preparing their tax returns are welcome to take part in the program.

28 Jan 2014

Lake Area Tech Sees Record Growth

Author: Karen | Filed under: News Release

Lake Area Tech announces that spring enrollment has increased 4.5% over the previous year. To date, 1539 students are enrolled at Lake Area Tech. The overall combined numbers of fall and spring semester, along with the upcoming summer session, should put Lake Area Tech near the 1900 mark for total students for the 2013-14 year.

Lake Area Tech President Shephard comments, “We are very pleased with the number of students who turned out for the spring semester, both new and returning. With the skills gap situation in South Dakota and beyond, this is nothing but good news for business and industry and the work force shortages they are facing. In addition, we are seeing a steady growth in students who are enrolling in our online hybrid degrees.” Almost 11% of the students enrolled in the spring semester are in online hybrid formats (virtual labs and weekends on campus) students. The 11 Lake Area Tech E-Degrees make getting a technical degree possible for people who currently have jobs but want to improve their earning potential.

Shephard continues, “Lake Area Tech has been privileged to experience the continued growth of the institute and the overwhelming success of its graduates. Our success can be attributed to our exceptional staff, the great partnerships we have with business and industry, and strong community and statewide partnerships.”