WEST POINT, NE – A new chapter in educating current and future generations into a skilled workforce for east central and northeast Nebraska was established Monday with the formal groundbreaking of a new training center in West Point.
The 15,000 square foot Donald E. Nielsen Career and Technical Training Facility will provide educational and training opportunities for area high school students, adult learners, and business and industry. It will be constructed immediately north of the city’s Nielsen Community Center.
Marlene Johnson, mayor of West Point, served as groundbreaking program emcee. While heavy equipment behind her paused briefly for the ceremony, Johnson said educating a workforce capable of supporting, attracting, and sustaining economic growth is critical for the region to remain economically robust.
“It is the job of all of us to empower and provide the resources necessary to build that workforce….and provide employees of this region’s businesses and industry the training and skillsets that are required in order for our rural areas to survive and thrive,” she said. “The building that will be constructed behind me over the course of the year will be one of those resources to allow that to become a reality.”
The building will be owned by the City of West Point while Northeast Community College will lease the facility where career and technical education classes will be conducted. Computer and health sciences classes will be held in Northeast’s wing in the nearby Nielsen Community Center.
Among those who will use the facility are high school students in Pathways 2 Tomorrow (P2T), a consortium of schools from Bancroft-Rosalie, Lyons-Decatur Northeast, Oakland-Craig, Pender, West Point-Beemer and Wisner-Pilger. Two additional school districts, Emerson-Hubbard and Howells-Dodge, will join the consortium in June.
Joe Peitzmeier, executive director of P2T, said upper classmen in the consortium schools want something more than a typical high school education.
“They want to start focusing on their careers and make career decisions in their junior and senior years on what they want to do or don’t want to do in high school rather than in college. We truly believe that our model is innovative and will be a model for small rural communities, not only in Nebraska, but nationally.”
Programming in the new facility will focus on areas that include building construction, diversified manufacturing, and welding.
Dr. Michael Chipps, president of Northeast, said he is pleased the initiative will bring career and technical education and training to high school students, college students and to business and industry in a facility designed for hands-on learning.
“The National Skills Coalition reports that Nebraska continues to experience a shortage of middle-skill and high-skill workers, making career and technical education even more essential,” he said. “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 degree. This is where this new facility plays a vital role.”
Individuals representing three West Point area philanthropic organizations said they are proud to be part of the initiative to help finance the construction of the facility.
Jason Smith, president of the West Point Community Foundation, said the initiative of building a workforce through the collaborative programming of P2T, Northeast Community College and Wayne State College is what sold the foundation on agreeing to be part of this first of its kind project.
“The educational, economic and workforce development from this project and ultimately its programming will have an instrumental role in helping our region thrive for generations to come,” he said.
“The board felt very strongly that Hank and Mona would have been very much in favor of this,” said Edward Bracht, president of the Hank and Mona Stalp Foundation. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the whole area to teach the younger generation and give them an opportunity to get into jobs that will support them and help the much needed labor force which we need in this area.”
While the day was designed to celebrate the creation of a building, Clarence Mock, president of the Donald E. Nielsen Foundation, said they were also there to recognize something equally or perhaps of greater importance.
“And that is the creation of a learning environment where individuals will be able to hone in on the necessary skills that will lead them to personal achievement and success, not just in this area, but in a global economy.”
Mock said the value of the partner’s collaboration in this endeavor will be viewed positively by others.
“I look forward to seeing this kind of cooperative venture in other areas, not just here in the City of West Point, but elsewhere throughout the area. I believe this will be a fitting and strong example of how that can be done.”
Johnson said it is extremely important to note the investments of these organizations and others.
“All of our foundations are creating opportunities for our students and others to succeed now and in the future with their investment in education. For that, we express our gratitude.”
Construction of the facility is presently underway. It is expected to open in early 2019.