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Northeast Board Members Meet in West Point, Learn About Regional Needs

Northeast Board Members Meet in West Point, Learn About Regional Needs

WEST POINT, Neb. -- The Northeast Community College Board of Governors sought input Thursday from the West Point community.

Board members met at the Nielsen Community Center where the West Point Extended Campus is located. The board and staff conducted roundtable discussions with education, business and industry leaders following the business portion of the meeting. 

Seven tables of various representatives attended, including school officials beyond West Point, along with area seed and fertilizer companies, health care, manufacturing, media and other companies. Among the other communities represented were Oakland, Columbus, Beemer, Wisner and Pilger. 

Community leaders were asked about such things as the biggest threats they experienced to business, ways that Northeast can assist and opportunities for business and industry to interact in the future. Other questions were directed at K-12 school districts, including dual credit, which provides free tuition for all students currently enrolled in high school to take dual credit or college credit courses at Northeast.  

Whether a student wants to take the first steps toward a bachelor’s degree or start on a fast track to a career, both general education and career and technical education courses are available. Grades and credits earned can be used toward a degree at Northeast or transferred to another college.  

Charlene Widener, vice president of Educational Services, gave a presentation ahead of the roundtable talks, including dual credit explanation. She said students who take college credit courses during high school are twice as likely to attend college after graduation. 

In addition, some table leaders shared some findings discussed at their tables. Northeast staff took notes and brought the findings back with them. 

Some issues employers are dealing with include absenteeism and workers who are not motivated. Among the suggestions were offering more bilingual classes, more K-12 partnerships to help break the cycle of poverty and give students more opportunities to explore different careers.  

It was noted that many students are getting health care jobs. Often, these students became interested in these jobs through job shadows. It was asked if Northeast and other colleges could get students more interested in work earlier before their senior year.  

It was also asked that Northeast reach out to parents and help to educate them, so they know the value of learning a trade or skill. Parents need to know more about the careers that are available to their children locally and realize that many manufacturing jobs are not manual labor, but involve high skills and technical training, they said. 

It also would be helpful if Northeast and industries would show students the careers that are available. Some students and young workers look at these opportunities as “jobs” and are not interested in making them careers. They include high pay. 

When students cannot get into a job training because of a waiting list, it would be helpful if they could take some courses or training in a related field that will increase their knowledge when they finally get into the job training they are seeking. 

There needs to be better communication with faculty on how state dollars are being spent on dual credit and faculty are paid, along with more Title IX training. 

Finally, it is needed to improve the communication skills of many young workers, who don’t understand the importance of verbal communication with their bosses and the importance of looking them in the eye and listening. Many young workers only want to communicate with their phones. 

Former West Point Mayor Marlene Johnson, who was instrumental in getting Northeast located in the Nielsen Center, thanked Northeast, West Point and area community donors for making it possible so that Northeast could have a single, permanent presence in West Point. 

Johnson, who took several classes from Northeast at scattered locations before the Nielsen Center was built in 2008, said one of her greatest joys is on Fridays -- driving by to see all the area buses parked outside the Nielsen Center, representing high school students taking classes and earning credits. That saves tremendously for the students’ families and comes at a time when the parents can provide support at home, she said. 

Earlier in the day, Northeast staff and board members received a tour. Board members meet once each year at one of the extended campuses and are planning to make the meetings more frequent. 

West Point Meeting cutline 

Among those participating in one of the roundtable discussions in West Point on Thursday, April 18, was (from left) D.J. Weddle, superintendent of West Point Public Schools; Cheryl Kreikemeier of West Point representing Pathways 2 Tomorrow; and Jeff Scherer of Beemer, chairperson of the Northeast Board of Governors. About 40 people participated in the roundtable discussions following the board meeting. (Northeast Community College)