This is the first in a series spotlighting South Dakota’s manufacturing industry during the 2nd annual SD Manufacturing Week.
As a kid growing up in the small town of Canby, Minn., Dustin had no intention to go into the manufacturing industry. In his mind, he believed manufacturing was a dead end, and had set his sights on something different.
“Manufacturing is something almost everyone goes into in Canby, and when I was young, I told myself I’d never end up there,” Knutson recalls. “Like most kids, I thought manufacturing was shoveling coal in a mine and I thought ‘I’ll never do that.’”
After a year at the School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, Knutson felt unsettled. He decided to take a break and was hired at Boyds’ Gunstock Industries, a manufacturer of wooden gunstocks in Mitchell, South Dakota, doing exactly what he never thought he’d do, exactly where he never thought he’d end up. But after being hired, his opinion of what manufacturing as it was and as it is becoming drastically changed.
“Basically, I just needed a job. I was hired at Boyds’ as a machine operator on an overnight shift, and right when I started, all the stereotypes I had about manufacturing quickly dissolved,” Knutson said. “The work I was doing was actually very physically and mentally stimulating. It had meaning and I was producing something I could relate to. As time went on, my drive and willingness to learn led me to advance within the company. Eventually in 2014, I landed my current position as general manager.”
“No matter what your field of interest, whether it’s human resources, marketing, creative and design, you can have a career in manufacturing,” Knutson said. “Kids just need to be better informed. And as professionals in the industry, it’s up to us to tell them that manufacturing is cool…it’s a career opportunity and it’s a good way to earn a living.”
The bottom line is manufacturing should be on the radar as a viable option for students to pursue. Competitive wages, well-lit and temperature controlled facilities and state-of-the-art equipment makes a career in manufacturing an excellent choice.
“South Dakota Manufacturing Week is great because it sheds light on what was once thought of as a dark industry and exposes kids to what manufacturing really is,” Knutson said. “I think kids, and adults for that matter, may be surprised to learn that manufacturing can provide a productive way of life. The opportunities are out there, we just need to make them better known.”