Daktronics offers SDSU students practical skills

Caroline Knutson

Caroline Knutson

It’s a small town business with a big name. Since its humble start in 1968, Daktronics has gone from the ingenious idea of two former SDSU electrical engineering professors to one of the world’s largest and most competitive leaders in the display industry.

This year, as Daktronics celebrates its 35th year with 35 sales and service offices nationwide, it owes a portion of its success to the diligence and effort of some of our very own South Dakota State students. After all, nearly one-fourth of their employee population is made up of three hundred SDSU student employees.

“State students contributing as employees is one of Daktronics’ core components,” said Carla Gatzke, Manager, Personnel and Information Systems.

She describes their role in the business as: Win, win, win. It’s good for Daktronics, good for the students, good for SDSU.

“It’s good for Daktronics because we can offer students the chance to work on their skills and to perform within their major so they can see exactly what they’re getting themselves into. It’s good for students because they can earn money while acquiring work experience for their major. It’s good for SDSU because the students are elevating discussion in the classroom and improving the graduate hiring rate. The students know that when they start at Daktronics, they have a high probability of being offered a full-time job after graduation. They add to our success,” said Gatzke.

Brianna Batien, a senior majoring in consumer affairs, has been working at Daktronics for the past nine months. Currently, she works 20 hours a week as a corporate training student. Her position requires her to be responsible for setting up scheduling for all of the training in the corporation.

“I like Daktronics because of the emphasis they place on responsibility. Office students are given their work and they have to get it done without anyone telling them what to do. It takes a lot of communication with department heads and knowing what they need,” said Batien.

Dustin Treml, a fifth year senior majoring in civil engineering, works 30 hours a week as a mechanical design assistant. He contributes to the design of structures that support scoreboards and other indoor sports products. When the design is approved, he drafts the plans; then after the structure is built, he inspects it.

“I like that I’m getting really good experience for my major and it’s a very reputable job that looks great on my resume. The flexibility that Daktronics offers to students is very helpful. I can almost assign my own hours,” said Treml.

“We think that the student experience is a key part of who we are”.

“They are continually learning and changing, as they become the company’s future leaders,” said Gatzke about her past experiences with SDSU students. “The students contribute to the work and recruitment of full-time positions. South Dakota State offers the key majors that match what Daktronics would be recruiting.”

The pride and satisfaction that Daktronics student workers have in their job is increasingly apparent throughout their involvement.

“In summer corporate training, I got to work with many of my supervisors. Now they come directly to me if they have a problem, instead of going to a full-time employee,” Batien said.

Treml, however, sees his finished projects as motivation. “Being a sports fan, when you see at a football game or in an arena the products that you helped design, that is the ultimate pride.”

Both students, however, realize that pride isn’t the only benefit that comes from working at Daktronics.

“The responsibility and prioritizing are major components. Learning how to break up projects and handle the work myself was important,” Batien said.

“Daktronics has helped me master thinking for myself. It’s not a job where everything is handed to you; it requires a lot of thinking and communication,” Treml said.

The positions available to students range widely from sales and marketing to engineering and manufacturing to administration.

“Many of our current leaders started as students of SDSU, so we believe among our students is the company’s future,” said Gatzke.