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Northeast Community College selected as outstanding CTE program by Department of Education

Northeast Community College selected as outstanding CTE program by Department of Education

KEARNEY, Neb. – Northeast Community College has earned distinguished recognition by the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE). The institution has been named as the Nebraska Career and Technical Education’s (CTE) Outstanding Postsecondary Program of 2022.

The award was presented during NDE’s 2022 Nebraska Career Education (NCE) Conference recently in Kearney. The conference attracted hundreds of CTE educators and administrators from across the state. 
The award, open to individual instructional higher education programs, is designed to recognize the outstanding achievement of career and technical education in Nebraska postsecondary institutions.

Northeast Community College was acknowledged by NDE for its focus on empowering individuals to be adaptable, inventive, and re-tooled with the skills and education to promote high wage, high demand, high skilled careers throughout its 20-county region. Dr. Leah Barrett, president, said Northeast is honored to receive the award. She said industry is woven into the fabric of the entire college to ensure that each student gains the technical skills, academic skills, and employability skills necessary to succeed. 

“This is evident as over 99.5% of our graduates are employed or continuing their education with 88% of 2020-2021 career and technical program graduates working in their chosen field of study,” she said. “Ninety percent of Northeast’s graduates are filling high demand positions within the state.” 

Barrett said Northeast not only contributes to the workforce through its skilled graduates and training programs, but its regional economic impact is also substantial to the northeast region of Nebraska. 

“A study conducted in 2018 determined that Northeast contributed $236.3 million to the regional economy each year through our graduates. This figure represents the higher earnings that students earned during the year, the increased output of the businesses that employed the students, and the multiplier effects that occurred as students and their employees spent money at other businesses. This added income is equivalent to supporting 4,053 jobs.”

At its core, Northeast’s CTE pathway begins before a student enters college but provides collaborative tools through unique endeavors such as dual credit, a Fridays @ Northeast program, and Pathways 2 Tomorrow (P2T) in which high school students complete workforce related hands-on curriculum at Northeast, taught by college CTE instructors helping to increase access, relevancy, and rigor. The CTE programming serves as a springboard for other initiatives including entrepreneurship, workforce training, and community engagement all with a foundation in education. 

“Involving employers as partners in program design, curriculum development, program evaluation and assessment of student work remains a foundational pillar of Northeast’s CTE success,” said Shanelle Grudzinski, dean of applied technology. 

“Supporting professional development and integration between general education curriculum and CTE programming remains the basis of innovative and bold strategies to find, support, and retain top quality instructors and promote program and student success.”

Required work-based learning experiences ensure that the curriculum and on-the-job activities cover the skills that workers need to succeed in crucial roles in the workforce. The interconnectedness between Northeast and its industry partners includes paid work-based learning opportunities, sponsorships, and donations which further address critical needs. 

Grudzinski said, “This has been validated through a 73.4% persistence rate five-year average in CTE programs, the awarding of over 980 industry embedded credentials annually in addition to a degree, and a 96% employer satisfaction rate of Northeast graduates in conceptional and technical knowledge, quality of work, oral and written communication, interpersonal and teamwork and other skills, in addition to the strong completion and economic impact data.”

Also at the Kearney conference, representatives of Northeast and Pathways to Tomorrow accepted the 2021 Outstanding Secondary Program of the Year award on behalf of P2T. The conference was held virtually last year.

The P2T consortium offers CTE classes that are facilitated through Educational Service Unit (ESU) #2 and includes seven-member schools: Bancroft-Rosalie, Emerson-Hubbard, Guardian Angels Central Catholic (West Point), Howells-Dodge, Lyons Decatur Northeast, Oakland-Craig, and West Point-Beemer. This will be the fourth-year classes have been held at the Northeast Community College extended campus in West Point.

P2T offers multiple career pathways. Education, computer and health sciences classes are held in Northeast’s extended campus in West Point while building construction, transportation, welding and other classes are conducted across the street in the 16,000 square foot Donald E. Nielsen Career and Technical Education Center. P2T features 11 instructors, most of whom teach dual credit classes for Northeast, Wayne State College or both. 

P2T met NCE’s awards criteria as its instructional programs align with the Nebraska Career Education model. The consortium offers programs that demonstrate quality areas, including student achievement in both career and academic arenas, innovative instruction based on a state model program of study, alignment to Nebraska's workforce needs and economic priorities, and community engagement.

To learn more about P2T, visit,


                                                                                                    PHOTO CUTLINE 

Dr. Kate Graham, state director of career & technical education at the Nebraska Department of Education (right), presents Dr. Leah Barrett, president of Northeast Community College, the Nebraska Career and Technical Education’s 2022 Outstanding Postsecondary Program Award during the department’s Career Education Conference recently in Kearney. The award, open to individual instructional higher education programs, recognizes outstanding achievement of career and technical education in Nebraska postsecondary institutions.