NORFOLK, NE – High school seniors from Nebraska and Iowa have committed to continuing their education at the postsecondary level. The students, with many of their parents, friends and others watching, signed letters of intent to enroll in career and technical education (CTE) programs at Northeast Community College.
The signings by the 65 students took place Friday during the College’s Second Annual CTE Signing Day. The ceremony was similar to when athletes commit to continue their careers at the collegiate level., which Lyle Kathol, vice president of educational services at Northeast, calls a “big deal” to those student-athletes.
“I would suggest that students electing to enter into a high skill, high demand, high wage occupation is a ‘big deal’ for those students and even more important for their future employers. Gaining skills to be successful in a career is life changing. It sets one up to be employable and to contribute to society in a positive way. It is because of this importance to our communities, our region, and our state, that Northeast wants to make it a ‘big deal’ for students electing to begin a program of study in a technical field.
Kathol said there is no comparison to today’s career and technical education to vocational education of the past.
“Today’s career and technical education infuses technology and advanced skills through the entire curriculum, providing a vital link between the world of school and the world of work that is arming you with the knowledge and flexible skills that will make it possible to adapt to the jobs of the future. Your degree in a CTE vocation prepares you for a wide range of high-wage, high-skill, and high-demand careers in the real-world.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nearly 70-percent of jobs in today’s work force are classified as “skilled and technical.” These are employment opportunities that require training beyond high school, but do not necessarily require a four-year degree. Further, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that there were nearly six-million unfilled jobs in America as of this past fall, a record high. The Department cited approximately 6.8 million unemployed Americans who are actively looking for work.
Kathol said, “With those two figures in hand, you may wonder why there is a “jobs” problem at all? The reason is that many of the 6.8 million Americans looking for work do not possess the skills required to do most of the 5.9 million unfilled jobs.”
Tony Glenn, skilled and technical sciences career field specialist at the Nebraska Department of Education, said that job opportunities are readily available. Nebraska manufacturers are telling him that there are many jobs coming back from overseas.
“Supply versus demand is creating job security and higher pay. In many cases, the pay is higher than that of jobs that require a four-year degree. People with the skills are in the greatest demand for all types of industry.”
Glenn said employers are looking for employees with employability skills – showing up on time, putting away cell phones away until break time, team working skills with co-workers, and communication skills, among others.
“So, make sure you have those skills combined with your technical skills and knowledge.”
Glenn told the students said they are committing to one of the “finest” colleges in Nebraska.
“Not just because of the physical facilities, but when you look at the administration, the faculty and the staff that work (at Northeast)…..they are top notch people up here. And that’s what can really make the difference in your success - the people who are there helping you out.”
Kathol said earning a CTE degree or diploma at Northeast will allow students to be more marketable, establish stronger relationships, allow for better flexibility with time, and earn a high wage.
He said the average combined starting wage for Northeast’s 27 CTE programs is $16.92 per hour. However, the College reports some students had entry level pay this past year as high as $26 to $33 per hour. The salaries do not reflect wages associated with benefits or overtime.
“Of the 27 CTE programs at Northeast, 24 of them had a 100-percent placement rate of our students. Three other program had a 94-percent placement,” Kathol said. “By earning your degree, you can earn a higher salary in high demand, high skill, high pay careers. Your training is the first step on your career ladder.”
Kathol also acknowledged industry partners who have worked closely with Northeast in CTE programming. They included D’Ondre Cyrus, Mopar Cap/Local (automotive technology) Kristen Hodges, Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (automotive technology), Jeff Braithwait, Eastern Auto Service in Norfolk (automotive technology), Shawn Thompson, Norfolk GM Auto Center (auto body technology), and Scott Andrew, Norfolk Specialties (diversified manufacturing and welding).
Dr. Michael Chipps, Northeast president, applauded the students and their families for making the commitment to pursue Career and Technical Education opportunities.
“We are pleased to hold a wonderful celebration to showcase our technical programs and to elevate the status of a globally competitive workforce, and in turn addresses America’s shortage of highly skilled employees. Northeast Community Colleges stands with all of you (students) on this most important career-impacting journey.”
Andrew Funke, of Rock County High School in Bassett, (left) and Justin Jasper, of Stanton High School in Stanton, were among 65 Nebraska and Iowa high school seniors to sign academic letters of intent Friday to attend Northeast Community College this fall. The signings took place during the College’s second annual Career and Technical Education Signing Day in Hawks Point on the Norfolk campus. Funke and Jaster plan to enroll in the College’s Diesel Technology-Truck program.