NORFOLK, Neb. - An event showcasing students’ commitment to pursue postsecondary education came with a twist recently at Northeast Community College.
Rather than sign letters of intent to become a student-athletes, approximately 80 high school seniors from across Nebraska committed themselves to seek academic degrees during Northeast’s fourth annual Career and Technical Education (CTE) Signing Day. It was one of several ceremonies held across the country, sponsored by the National Coalition of Certification Centers.
Dr. Michele Gill, interim vice president of educational services, told students upgrading their education means enhancing their skills, learning new specializations, and entering the workforce as a stronger, more versatile employee.
“I applaud the wisdom you are displaying in your decision to enter college and begin an educationally strong and viable career program of study here today which will lead to you a career,” she said.
Leah Barrett, Northeast president, referenced a recent newspaper article that reported on the top 10 in- demand occupations in Nebraska. She said Northeast can assist in filling the need.
“Five of these occupations are in areas you will be enrolling in as Northeast Community College students. The other five jobs are ones that you can begin here and transfer to another institution to continue to pursue,” Barrett said. We are going to continue to make an incredible contribution to the economy of Nebraska.”
Twenty-four of Northeast’s twenty-seven CTE programs regularly experience a 100-percent job placement rate among graduates; the other three programs have seen a 94-percent placement.
Gill said Northeast’s academic programs mix classroom theory learning with real-world experiences through supervised internships, many of which include employers paying students to learn while working.
“This lets you apply what you learn in class to actual situations you might encounter once you begin your career. In addition, I would suggest that a student electing to enter into a high skill, high demand, high wage occupation is a big deal for students and even more important for the employers.”
Gill said earning a CTE degree or diploma through Northeast will allow students to be more marketable, establish stronger relationships, allow for better flexibility with time and earn a high wage.
She said the average combined starting wage for Northeast’s CTE programs is $16.92 per hour. However, the College’s Career Services Office reports some students had entry level pay this past year as high as $26 to $30 per hour. The salaries do not reflect wages associated with benefits or overtime.
Dave McCarthy, region manager for Titan Machinery, which operates a network of full service agricultural and construction equipment dealer locations in North America and Europe, praised the students for committing themselves to their education.
“Everyone here has been telling you congratulations and that’s great, but what I really want to say to you is ‘well done’ as this is a very important day. This is a big deal and you better take (obtaining your education) very, very seriously.”
In his keynote remarks, McCarthy spoke to the audience on the importance of education, careers, the students’ futures and commended those who are guiding the students on their educational pathways. He spoke of the difference between having a job and a career - defined as what a person does every day and something they have a desire to do.
“I want to make sure you all have a career - and you being here today is the start of that journey. I want you to love what you do. Because when you love what you do, it’s not work, you get good at it.”
McCarthy said industry is desperate to find more employees in areas that mirror the training found in many of the majors offered at Northeast, from accounting to wind energy technology. While he stressed the importance of education and training in order to land good paying career, McCarthy said another aspect is just as important.
“How you carry yourself, how you sell yourself, how you present yourself is vital. Having that ability to shake somebody’s hand, look somebody in the eye when they talk to you and clearly stating who you are could be the difference of you having a career of opportunity and not having one.”
McCarthy said these are traits he looks for in people he is considering to hire regardless if it is an entry level or senior level position.
Students who signed letters of intent during the ceremony have interests in the following programs at Northeast - Accounting, Agriculture-Agronomy, Agriculture-Diversified Ag, Agriculture-Mechanized, Agriculture-Precision Agriculture, Auto Body Repair Technology, Automotive Repair Technology, Building Construction, Business, Criminal Justice, Diesel Technology-Agriculture, Diesel Technology-Truck, Drafting-Architectural, Early Childhood Education, Electrical Construction and Control, Electromechanical Technology, Graphic Design, Health Information Management Services, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning, Information Technology, Machining & Manufacturing Automation, Media Arts-Digital Cinema and Media, Plumbing, Utility Line, Welding, and Wind Energy Technology.
McCarthy conclude his talk by telling students that they are fortunate in that there are many companies looking for skilled CTE trained employees, and it starts with getting an education.
“The equation for success here is fairly simple. Educate yourself, work your tails off, be a good person, have morals and values and you have a fighting chance to be pretty successful. Have a passion for what you want to do and follow that passion. I guarantee you, you won’t let yourself down.”
Students (from left) Aaron Disher, West Point, William Gatzemeyer, Bancroft, Dakota Lacost, Scotia, Avery Rosales, Madison, and Lawrence Walz, Battle Creek, were among approximately 80 Nebraska high school seniors to sign academic letters of intent to attend Northeast Community College this fall. The signings took place during the College’s fourth annual Career and Technical Education Signing Day in the Lifelong Learning Center on the Norfolk campus. The students plan to enroll in the building construction program. Standing behind the students are Shanelle Grudzinski, dean of applied technology, and Curtis Brandt, building construction instructor.