NORFOLK, Neb. – To meet requests from business and industry representatives and address the state’s goal of increasing workforce opportunities, Northeast Community College will be increasing its presence at its South Sioux City extended campus by expanding offerings in two programs.
On Tuesday, the College’s Board of Governors gave final approval a plan to construct an 11,600 sq. ft, commercial driver’s license (CDL) truck driving training facility and an adjacent truck driving range, and a 1,500 sq. ft. addition to its existing Industrial Training building to increase capacity of the welding program. The facilities and driving range will be located just to the west of the main extended campus building at 1001 College Way.
All funding for the projects will come from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds with other federal grant funds and donations through fundraising efforts.
The CDL Training Building will include two classrooms, a simulator room, instructor offices, drive-thru access, and an outdoor shelter for storing and charging. The CDL Training Range will provide adequate space for instruction of all required maneuvers to obtain a CDL certificate. The addition to the existing Industrial Training facility will support an expanded area for 20 booths and provide space for better student supervision and safety.
Dr. Leah Barrett, college president, said the expansion of the programs will provide increased opportunities for individuals who are looking to expand their skills as they seek employment in the two fields that are in high demand in the Siouxland region.
“This project will allow Northeast Community College to meet increased employer requests for workers with the specialized skills of truck driving and welding to fill vacant positions and foster business growth in the region,” Barrett said. “It will also improve the attainment rate in Northeast’s 20-county service area and in the State of Nebraska in an effort to achieve the goal of 70% established by the Legislature last year.”
The goal of Legislative Resolution 335 is that at least 70% of 25 to 34 year-old Nebraskans have a degree, certificate, diploma, or other postsecondary or industry-recognized credential with economic value by 2030. It encourages community college boards, among other higher education entities, to adopt the attainment rate as evidence of their support for such a goal.
In June 2022, members of the Board of Governors held roundtable sessions with the heads of several businesses and organizations in South Sioux City and the Siouxland region to discuss their goals and workforce requests.
“We wanted to listen to understand the needs that exist in the Siouxland region,” Barrett said. “Since that meeting last summer, college leaders have had additional meetings with employers throughout the area.”
The expansion in South Sioux City aligns with goals in Northeast’s strategic plan, including student pathways to success, excellence and innovation in educational programs, and effective resource management, and the Board’s End’s Policies that create student learning opportunities that will enable them to contribute to the economic and social vitality of the College’s 20-county service area at a cost that demonstrates prudent use of constituent funds.
“These facilities and program expansions will provide opportunities not currently available in the Siouxland area, including career pathway programs with on and off ramps and short-term credentials that provide excellent opportunities with life sustaining wages for low skilled individuals,” Barrett said. “These projects support our region's small businesses and are aimed at many of the industry’s most negatively impacted by COVID-19.”
No capital funds from the College are anticipated to be used in the $9.8 million project. It will be funded primarily with federal ARPA funds. In 2022, then-Gov. Pete Ricketts signed legislation that approved the use of ARPA dollars for community college workforce development projects intended to help the state recover from the pandemic.
Additionally, Northeast will use $500,000 from a $1 million U.S. Dept. of Labor community funding appropriations request that was in the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Appropriations budget. The request, which was supported by Rep. Adrian Smith (NE-3), was approved by Congress in December. It was a joint request with Western Nebraska Community College to support the purchase of equipment and the hiring of faculty members to expand the CDL programs at both institutions.
Work on the driving range is expected to begin this spring; construction on the building projects is scheduled to begin in Fall 2023 with completion in Summer 2024.
IMAGE: Overview of Northeast Community College South Sioux City CDL Training Building and training range and expansion of Industrial Technology building. A separate image (left) is architectural drawing of the CDL building.