Business Partner Specialist

Business Partner Specialist

Industry Partners, Pipeline Development, Upskill
  • Workforce Training
  • Strategic Planning
Lake Area Technical Institute (SD)


The Business Partner Specialist is used at Lake Area Technical Institute in northeast South Dakota to help businesses find creative ways to meet workforce demands.

  • Institutions
  • Institutions


Many businesses in South Dakota are not able to expand because they lack the skilled workforce to keep up with current demands. Couple that with the state’s low unemployment rate, number of retirements in the next 5-10 years, and number of young people available for the workforce, they won’t be able to keep up with employment projections, especially in the advanced manufacturing sector. Employers need better, more efficient ways to access and support a skilled and competent workforce for high demand jobs. LATI is using TAA Grant funds to address this issue.

  • Increase the number of students in high demand workforce programs of study, including non-traditional students and other under-represented populations.

  • Enhance and expand industry relationships focused on increasing job placement, summer internships, and cooperative agreements.


Helping industry recognize their role in student success is crucial. Particularly for low income students, industry support can be the key to their ultimate success. LATI is focused on being part of the workforce solution through the Business Partner Specialist position. The Business Partner Specialist is tasked with enhancing and expanding business and industry relationships, updating the image of advanced manufacturing to provide a more accurate depiction of what these jobs entail to the public, and finding ways to increase the pipeline of skilled workers.
More defined duties of this position include:
• Promote programs of study to fill high demand jobs with non-traditional students.
• Work with businesses to identify potential entry level employees for upskilling.
• Develop an individualized training plan for businesses.
• Identify off-campus lab sites through employer partners and community facilities.
• Create a model for businesses to use to “Grow Their Own”.
• Assist with a marketing campaign to re-image Advanced Manufacturing jobs experiencing shortages.
• Promote Build Dakota Scholarship and LATI’s Stretch the Million program to provide full ride scholarships in high-need workforce programs at SD’s technical institutes.
This model is being put into effect with a precision machining company called Graco. In the Fall of 2016, a precision machining e-Degree student approached his employer, Graco, to develop a plan to allow him to complete the coursework online and to do the hands-on labs at his employer’s. Graco is in Sioux Falls, 90 miles south of Watertown. The Business Partner Specialist, Curriculum Administrator, and PM Instructors approved a plan allowing the student to work and earn a credential. The student is currently enrolled, completing online coursework, and learning skills required by the program that also help his employer meet work production demands.

The Business Partner Specialist is responsible for achieving grant activities and creating the following list of deliverables. When possible, deliverables are created as Open Educational Resources (OER) and are available for download on, the repository for TAA Grant related curriculum and program materials.
• “Grow Your Own” Business Model – this model will support training and career placement, advocate for policies that facilitate increasing the number of Advanced Manufacturing workers, and coordinate and align innovative partnerships of businesses, technical institutes, universities, and communities.
• Marketing Campaign Package – including brochures, pamphlets, videos, and social media designed to target grant participants and re-image the Advanced Manufacturing sector.
• Individualized Training Packages – the “Grow Your Own” business model will include plans to upskill entry level employees based on individual business needs.
• Career Pathways and Prior Learning Models – these are documents showing how prior learning assessments (dual credits, test, veterans, college credit) apply to earning certificates, diplomas, Associate and Bachelor degrees.

  • Increase the number of employees participating in a “Grow Your Own” upskill plan in advanced manufacturing by five.

  • Increase the number of employer partners in the Stretch the Million full ride scholarship opportunity to 100.

The student successfully completed his first semester coursework and is currently enrolled in his second semester all while maintaining his full time employment with Graco. Graco has identified three more employees that would be potential candidates for next fall if this proves to be successful. Graco is discussing becoming a Stretch the Million partner to the Build Dakota Scholarship program, which pays all costs for employees to earn an Associate’s Degree. This includes tools, laptop, uniforms, etc. Graco would modify their tuition reimbursement program to support a portion of the full ride scholarship. We haven’t been able to calculate a return on investment, but this is something we will be watching in the future. The Business Partner Specialist is in the beginning stages of trying this model with another company, Dakotaland. They are located in Sioux Falls and Watertown. They are looking to expand their machining department and feel if this model works for Graco it would be something they want to try.

This position has been effective in upskilling manufacturing workers in the Precision Machining program and expanding the program by adding additional off-campus locations.


Personnel, Business/Industry Partners, Corporate Education, Training on existing DOL programs

  • Salaries and Fringe Benefits.

  • Some of the marketing methods require development and publication costs.

  • Travel costs to businesses.

  • Tuition and fees.

  • Include deadlines for student work that is completed online.

  • Provide regularly scheduled visits to LATI to work on machines and to communicate/connect with instructors.

  • Ensure student employee has the right tools for the program of study.

Our plans include researching and developing a way to help business partners find a way to examine the return on investment in upskilling entry level workers. We want to continue to develop more training solutions to expand the pipeline. Learn about existing DOL training programs and/or resources that could benefit businesses who participate in new ideas to train workers.


Precision Machining Webpage
Precision Machining Part Time Online Course Outline
Build Dakota Scholarship
Applied Engineering and Stretch the Million
Credit for Prior Learning
Career Path Options - Examples

SD Department of Labor and Regulation Labor Market Info
South Dakota Workforce Initiatives – SD WINS
Governor’s Workforce Summits

Terri Cordrey
Grant Manager
Lake Area Technical Institute
1201 Arrow Avenue NE
Watertown, South Dakota 57201
Phone: 605-882-5284

Terri Cordrey
Grant Manager
Lake Area Technical Institute
1201 Arrow Avenue NE
Watertown, South Dakota 57201
Phone: 605-882-5284