A crowd gathered Thursday to celebrate its opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the center at 200 W. Washington St., immediately north of the Nielsen Community Center.
“Today, we are witnessing the true spirit of collaboration. Over the past three-years, a countless number of meetings and other planning sessions have been held by a number of people from several organizations to create something unique,” said Bruce Schlecht, mayor of West Point. “This endeavor has been created to help all of us in developing workforce training opportunities for the benefit of this entire region.”
The City of West Point has worked with Northeast Community College, Wayne State College and the Pathways to Tomorrow (P2T) high school consortium to offer classes in the facility. Programming in the new center will focus on areas that include building construction, manufacturing and welding. Computer and health science classes will be held in the Shirley and Jake Weber wing of the Nielsen Community Center.
The new 16,000 square foot facility is the result of a Memorandum of Understanding between the City of West Point and the education partners that is designed to provide opportunities for career and technical education.
Dr. Michael Chipps, president of Northeast Community College, said the initiative has been designed to bring career and technical education to area high school students, Northeast adult student-learners, and employer business and industry training in a facility specifically designed for hands-on, experiential learning.
“What you see around you is about acquainting people, especially young people, with career awareness in modern facilities. However, we also want to lift the level of the importance of technical programs to people of all ages,” he said. “I am speaking of ‘H-3’ occupations – high wage, high skill and high demand jobs - jobs that will keep both young people and those already working here in rural Nebraska. These are the individuals that most of us really desire.”
In addition to college-level credit programming, business and industry customized training opportunities in areas such as truck driving, safety and entrepreneurship and leadership are being planned to spur economic development and support employment opportunities in east central Nebraska. This will be led by Northeast’s Center for Enterprise.
The collaborative effort among the educational entities in the endeavor 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 eight school districts in the Pathways 2 Tomorrow consortium.
“A founding principle of P2T is providing career and technical education programs to the students of our consortium schools that these small rural Nebraska schools may not have been able to offer on their own,” said Joe Peitzmeier, executive director of P2T. “We are enhancing (our) students’ preparation to either go directly to the workforce, to a two-year college or a four-year college.”
Peitzmeier credited the partners for creating the unique education model.
“What we have done and what you have done is a testament to ‘we can accomplish something greater as a group than we could have alone.’”
Members of the P2T consortium include Bancroft-Rosalie, Emerson-Hubbard, Howells-Dodge, Lyons-Decatur Northeast, Oakland-Craig, Pender, West Point-Beemer and Wisner-Pilger. Due to the participation of West Point-Beemer, Peitzmeier said P2T is also able to offer programs to Guardian Angels Central Catholic in West Point.
Judith Scherer Connealy, director of continuing education and outreach at Wayne State College, also spoke of the concerted effort to establish the center.
“Wayne State College appreciates the collaborative spirit during the last three years of meetings and planning. We believe that today’s achievement inspires all of us to continue to work together for the betterment of those we serve.”
Individuals representing area philanthropic organizations in the West Point region said they are proud to be part of the initiative to help finance the construction of the facility.
Clarence Mock, president of the Donald E. Nielsen Foundation, gave credit to the people who brought the idea to reality. He said the center will allow more people to enjoy in the satisfaction of having engaged in the “dignity of work” that will, in turn, be beneficial to the entire region.
“If you are like me and you believe that any type of work that uplifts and furthers the interests of humanity no matter how significant … has dignity, then you will understand that this is going to be a place that will help everyone to accomplish that dignity,” he said. “We all don’t have the same talents, but all of us ought to have the opportunity to explore and develop the talents that we have.”
Nadine Hagedorn, secretary of the board the Henry A. Stalp and Ramona F. Stalp Foundation, said the foundation is dedicated to the promotion of all education for everyone in Cuming County.
“We focus on making a difference to the lives of those in Cuming County who desire to further their education. The Stalps’ mission is well portrayed in this facility,” she said.
Jason Smith, president of the West Point Community Foundation, said based on the workforce challenges that continue to face the state, the partners determined that the time was right to invest in the community, its residents, and the future.
“I can share with you that there are school districts, counties and others from across the state and neighboring states that are following this project very closely. They are watching intently because they want to see if this kind of ‘educational hub’ can be replicated all over our great state – which I believe it can and will be used to continue to “Grow Nebraska.”
Others said it is a model that could replicated wherever the need exists.
“We truly believe that our model is innovative and will be a model for small, rural communities, not only in Nebraska, but nationally, to follow,” Peitzmeier said.
Chipps agreed saying, “This is the ‘grand experiment’ for America’s rural communities. It includes all facets of lifelong learning – from a student in a school setting getting exposed to multiple career opportunities, to a college student learning high demand, high pay technical skills, to the local workforce improving and refining skill sets, and to an individual taking courses for personal enjoyment. It will all be available through this educational and training center.”
“This is an example of a premium setting that provides premium education in order to have premium jobs,” Chipps said.
Dr. Michael Chipps, president of Northeast Community College, speaks Thursday during a ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Donald E. Nielsen Career and Technical Education Center in West Point. The 16,000 square foot facility is the result of a Memorandum of Understanding between the City of West Point, Northeast, Wayne State College and the Pathways 2 Tomorrow (P2T) high school consortium, that is designed to provide opportunities for career and technical education to area high school students and traditional college age students, as well as provide business and industry training.