On Tuesday, seven education partners gathered in Wayne to sign an agreement intended to improve college and career readiness, educational attainment, community and economic vitality, and growth by combining the strengths of the entities to increase educational and workforce development as it relates to agriculture and natural resources in the region.
Members in the Northeast Nebraska Agriculture and Natural Resources Education Compact include Little Priest Tribal College, Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, Nebraska Indian Community College, Northeast Community College, University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Wayne State College, and Wayne Community Schools.
Partners say that they will draw on the strength of each entity to achieve a set of goals backed by strategies that are designed to capitalize on the region’s rich expertise in education and workforce solutions. The approach reflects a blending of efforts from a variety of educational and business partners that will serve students, industry, and the state of Nebraska.
“We are pleased to be working with our educational partners in this compact to formalize the work Northeast Community College has already undertaken to educate the future agricultural workforce in the region,” said Mary Honke, co-interim president at Northeast. “As agriculture accounts for one out of every two jobs in the region, the signing of this compact agreement is another opportunity to position our graduates to assume those positions in order to help northeast Nebraska sustain and grow its rural population.”
The goals of the partnership are to provide education platforms for a range of learners in resilient food, energy, water, and societal systems in alignment with career opportunities, as well as prepare teachers, curriculum and professional development programs for pre- and in-service educators to respond to the increased need for highly qualified K-12 agricultural science and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) educators. Additional objectives are intended to encourage workforce development solutions that are designed for the agriculture and natural resources industries in the region.
Honke said community colleges play a significant role in preparing graduates with two-year degrees to meet employers’ needs with well-trained employees.
“The programs offered at Northeast Community College, for example, embrace the needs of the region. We serve as a community collaborator - whether it’s for workforce development training or for economic development opportunities. This work is critical to the rural revitalization efforts underway across northeast and north central Nebraska.”
Many students are interested in beginning their education at Northeast Community College and then transfer to another institution to finish a higher degree program. Honke said Northeast has strong transfer agreement relationships with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and Wayne State College.
“UNL has been instrumental in developing pathways for Northeast students to continue their education in agriculture beyond the associate degree, while hundreds of other students have transferred seamlessly to Wayne State College. We are proud of the transfer opportunities afforded to our students and value our long-standing relationships with our four-year partner institutions.”
Approximately 350 students register for 12 agriculture programs at Northeast each year. The department has 14 full-time faculty members, many of whom are engaged at home with various ag ventures, including livestock and crops.
Agriculture programs at Northeast Community College include Animal Science, Agribusiness, Agriculture-College Transfer, Agronomy, Dairy Technician, Diversified Agriculture, Horticulture, Mechanized Agriculture, Natural Resources, Precision Agriculture, Pre-Veterinary Technology and Veterinary Technology.
The newest program, Natural Resources, was developed following a discussion by Northeast faculty with representatives of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Since the college already had most of the classes required for the program, it was a natural addition to the ag department.
Dr. Michele Gill, interim vice president of educational services at Northeast Community College, (left) signs an agreement as part of a new seven-member northeast Nebraska educational compact with goals that are designed to contribute to workforce and talent development while serving the educational needs of youth and lifelong learners. Also pictured are Tara Smydra, associate dean of agriculture, math and science at Northeast (to Gill’s left), Corinne Morris, dean of agriculture, math and science at Northeast and Dr. Michael Oltrogge, president of the Nebraska Indian Community College.