Representatives of the City of West Point and several area educational institutions have formalized a collaborative effort to expand career and technical education in east central Nebraska.
At the conclusion of a special meeting of the West Point City Council on Monday, Mayor Marlene Johnson and others signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to create a new partnership that will provide career and technical education opportunities for area high school students, adult learners and business and industry training. As a result of this demonstrated level of collaboration between the educational partners, a Career and Technical Training Facility will be constructed near the city’s Nielsen Community Center at 200 Anna Stalp Avenue.
In addition, two area foundations have announced major gifts to assist in financing the project.
“This is a significant day for West Point and the surrounding region,” Johnson said. “This facility will help retain and attract residents to the area, allow high school students to enroll in career pathways, provide additional undergraduate and graduate educational opportunities for local residents and offer workforce training to businesses and industries in the region. We are grateful for this collaborative effort in order to execute this endeavor.”
The proposed 15,000 square foot facility is a joint venture between the City of West Point, Northeast Community College, Wayne State College, Educational Service Unit 2 and Pathways 2 Tomorrow (P2T), a consortium of six school districts consisting of Bancroft-Rosalie, Lyons-Decatur Northeast, Oakland-Craig, Pender, West Point-Beemer and Wisner-Pilger.
Pender’s three-year committment in the consortium comes at a price to the district not to exceed more than $.01 of the levy each year. With a valuation of approximately $615 million anticipated in 2017-18, the cost should be in the neighborhood of $60,000.
About 20 students are interested in the program.
Based on a report by the National Skills Coalition, Nebraska continues to experience a shortage of middle-skill and high-skill workers, making career and technical education even more important. By 2022, 59 percent of all occupations in Nebraska will be middle-skill jobs that will require some form of education beyond high school. Additionally, another 22 percent of jobs will be high-skill and require education beyond an associate’s degree.
“Without dedicated space, equipment and faculty resources, programming and training will not be available to meet the needs of local employers in the region,” Johnson said. “We are committed to working with our partners to design the building to accommodate the latest technology for enhanced learning to include welding, manufacturing and technical education to train and retrain employees from area business and industry.”
During the Council meeting, a representative of the Donald E. Nielsen Foundation announced it would contribute $1 million to the project, while a representative of the Henry A. Stalp and the Ramona A. Stalp Foundation pledged $500,000.
“We believe this is an extraordinary project, and it’s an example of what communities, like West Point and the surrounding area, can do to help themselves to preserve the future and the kind of life that we all want to have for our children and the communities where we live,” said Clarence Mock of the Nielsen Foundation. “It’s just such a shining example of what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit. It’s really been a pleasure for me to talk with the partners working on this project who think that this is going to be a wonderful thing for West Point and the surrounding communities.”
“The Stalp Foundation has supported education for a good many years and is also proud to support (this project). I think this is a very needed project,” Ed Bracht, president of the board of directors of the Henry A. Stalp and Ramona A. Stalp Foundation, said.
The West Point Community Foundation will serve as the local nonprofit 501c3 and receive additional donations to the project. All gifts will be tax deductible.
“On behalf of the West Point Community Foundation, we are delighted to be a part of this innovative collaboration of educational opportunities,” said Jason Smith, foundation president. “This initiative will benefit our area and beyond for generations to come.”
Northeast Community College is committed to funding the ongoing operations of the center and will work with Wayne State College, Educational Service Unit 2, and leadership among the six high schools to offer programming in the facility.
“This new facility will assist us in responding to the need to provide the career and technical education opportunities necessary to prepare a qualified workforce,” said Dr. Michael Chipps, president of Northeast. “We are pleased to partner with community leaders, business and industry, Wayne State College and area schools in expanding these services to the region.”
“Wayne State College is excited to join Pathways 2 Tomorrow,” Wayne State President Dr. Marysz Rames said. “This strong partnership will ensure students in the Bancroft-Rosalie, Lyons-Decatur, Oakland-Craig, Pender, West Point-Beemer and Wisner-Pilger schools have expanded opportunities to explore career pathways through a broad range of educational options.”
The collaborative effort among the entities is focused on establishing unique career pathways for students in various fields, resulting in access to career and technical education that is not available in the six high schools. By the fall of 2019, up to six pathways are anticipated to be available to students in the P2T consortium.
Dr. Ted DeTurk, administrator of Educational Services Unit 2, said the educational partners are undertaking a truly unique endeavor.
“The vision of the Pathways 2 Tomorrow leadership group is to provide extraordinary learning opportunities to member districts,” DeTurk said. “Our partnership with postsecondary institutions will serve as a replicable model that supports and nurtures K-12 students as they begin the transition between K-12 and their chosen career endeavors.”
School superintendents say the partnership is important to the region.
“This partnership will provide quality career-focused programs for our students that prepares them for continued education and employment and contribute to the economic development of our communities,” said Dr. Jon Cerny, superintendent of Bancroft-Rosalie Community Schools.
“P2T provides a new and unique opportunity for area juniors and seniors to experience a career opportunity in the area of their choice while still in high school. These experiences are beyond the scope of what individual high schools can offer,” Lyons-Decatur Northeast Superintendent Fred Hansen said. “I am excited about what the future may bring through this cooperative effort among area high schools.”
Jason Dolliver, superintendent at Pender Public Schools, said he is excited his district is part of the P2T consortium of schools.
“This is a great example of what can happen when schools collaborate, have a shared vision and want what is truly best for students,” Dolliver said. “Together, we are providing students with high-quality educational experiences and opportunities we can’t offer independently. I am proud PPS is part of P2T and look forward to what lies ahead.”
Area business leaders are also pleased with the venture.
“The partnership between Northeast Community College, Wayne State College, ESU 2 and P2T with area business and industry provides a unique opportunity to train our youth, along with our existing workforce in this region, for the jobs of today and the careers of tomorrow,” said Erv Eisenmenger of West Point Implement and Design, Inc. “This partnership can help students understand the great opportunities that exist in the trades.”
Operations in the new facility are expected to begin in the fall of 2018.