SIOUX CENTER—U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited the Dordt University Agriculture Stewardship Center on Friday, Oct. 16, to learn about the university’s Pro-Tech program and hear from leaders within the university and community manufacturers.
The topic for the afternoon visit was the university’s Pro-Tech program, which is described on Dordt’s website as a two-year vocational program that gives a hands-on education by combining internship experience with classroom activities.
Dordt officials guided DeVos through the Stewardship Center building, with DeVos getting to talk with some of the university’s Pro-Tech students.
After that, DeVos sat for a talk with Dordt representatives and from Sioux Center businesses such as Pella Corp., Interstates and Entegro Health who have worked with students taking part in the program.
DeVos said that such programs are key to addressing unanswered market demands throughout the country.
“We know that before the pandemic, there were almost 7 million unfilled jobs in the country that required some level of education beyond high school but not necessarily a four-year degree,” she said, adding, “I would say what you’re doing here at Dordt is a really great model for others to look at and adopt in their own way for their own unique situations and communities. Importantly, that partnership between private industry and education in a real intentional community environment, … everyone wins in that situation, and importantly, the student does.”
She believed exposing students at a younger age to such educational opportunities as the Pro-Tech Program would reduce the number of youths who go into college without a plan and end up leaving early with debt.
Getting rid of regulatory obstacles and putting in place new regulations as needed were some of the ways DeVos said the federal government has tried to encourage the creation and growth of such opportunities.
For a university like Dordt, regulations on religious organizations had hindered the university’s ability to meet market and educational needs as they wished, Dordt University president Erik Hoekstra said, but the current administration has done much to address that.
“I’ve been president for nine years,” Hoekstra said. “For four years, I fought the federal government about religious issues. In the last four years, I felt like you’ve heard us.”
“This has been a high priority of the administration, essentially to reassert the 1st Amendment, that we all have the freedom to practice our faith,” DeVos said. “It was really important that we look at a lot of the regulation that had been done previously and strip away the things that have precluded the ability to freely practice faith and to have that reflected in the mission of an organization like Dordt.”