A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Thursday morning for the new Donald E. Nielsen Career and Technical Training Facility in West Point. Dr. Michael Chipps, President of Northeast Community College, says the new facility will allow students to train for 4 hours a day.
“This fall we have well over 100 high school students that are going to participate really from if you will 10-2, 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. And they’ll be taking all kinds of career awareness training here so they can eventually, the grand goal for them is to develop a feeling for career and technical so they can make better decisions about the future careers for them.”
Dr. Chipps says college training will be provided around the 10-2 time frame Monday-Friday and on weekends for Northeast and Wayne State.
There’s also the Center for Enterprise, the customized training for current employers and their employees.
There will also be Advocational Recreational Training and Education for anyone wanting to take anything from how to use a better camera to how to do art, according to Dr. Chipps.
West Point Mayor Bruce Schlecht says the new facility is really meaningful for area schools and businesses.
“It’s not just the city part of it, but it’s the students here. I think right now there’s about 100 students signed up just from the two West Point Schools that come here, and that’s just great in itself. It’s a big opportunity and we’re here to help fill the need that there’s many businesses around here. And they need this type of workers. And it’s just going to be great for the surrounding area, not just West Point.”
Schlecht says the new facility means a lot to the city of West Point and thinks other cities will think they need something like it too.
“Today, we are witnessing the true spirit of collaboration. Over the past three-years, a countless number of meetings and other planning sessions have been held by a number of people from several organizations to create something unique,” said Schlecht. “This endeavor has been created to help all of us in developing workforce training opportunities for the benefit of this entire region.”
The City of West Point has worked with Northeast Community College, Wayne State College and the Pathways to Tomorrow (P2T) high school consortium to offer classes in the facility. Programming in the new center will focus on areas that include building construction, manufacturing and welding. Computer and health science classes will be held in the Shirley and Jake Weber wing of the Nielsen Community Center.
The new 16,000 square foot facility is the result of a Memorandum of Understanding between the City of West Point and the education partners that is designed to provide opportunities for career and technical education.
The collaborative effort among the educational entities in the endeavor is focused on establishing unique career pathways for students in various fields, resulting in access to career and technical education that is not available in the eight school districts in the Pathways 2 Tomorrow consortium.
“A founding principle of P2T is providing career and technical education programs to the students of our consortium schools that these small rural Nebraska schools may not have been able to offer on their own,” said Joe Peitzmeier, executive director of P2T. “We are enhancing (our) students’ preparation to either go directly to the workforce, to a two-year college or a four-year college.”
Peitzmeier credited the partners for creating the unique education model.
“What we have done and what you have done is a testament to ‘we can accomplish something greater as a group than we could have alone.’”
Members of the P2T consortium include Bancroft-Rosalie, Emerson-Hubbard, Howells-Dodge, Lyons-Decatur Northeast, Oakland-Craig, Pender, West Point-Beemer and Wisner-Pilger. Due to the participation of West Point-Beemer, Peitzmeier said P2T is also able to offer programs to Guardian Angels Central Catholic in West Point.
Judith Scherer Connealy, director of continuing education and outreach at Wayne State College, also spoke of the concerted effort to establish the center.
“Wayne State College appreciates the collaborative spirit during the last three years of meetings and planning. We believe that today’s achievement inspires all of us to continue to work together for the betterment of those we serve.”
Individuals representing area philanthropic organizations in the West Point region said they are proud to be part of the initiative to help finance the construction of the facility.
Clarence Mock, president of the Donald E. Nielsen Foundation, gave credit to the people who brought the idea to reality. He said the center will allow more people to enjoy in the satisfaction of having engaged in the “dignity of work” that will, in turn, be beneficial to the entire region.
“If you are like me and you believe that any type of work that uplifts and furthers the interests of humanity no matter how significant … has dignity, then you will understand that this is going to be a place that will help everyone to accomplish that dignity,” he said. “We all don’t have the same talents, but all of us ought to have the opportunity to explore and develop the talents that we have.”
Nadine Hagedorn, secretary of the board the Henry A. Stalp and Ramona F. Stalp Foundation, said the foundation is dedicated to the promotion of all education for everyone in Cuming County.
“We focus on making a difference to the lives of those in Cuming County who desire to further their education. The Stalps’ mission is well portrayed in this facility,” she said.
Jason Smith, president of the West Point Community Foundation, said based on the workforce challenges that continue to face the state, the partners determined that the time was right to invest in the community, its residents, and the future.
“I can share with you that there are school districts, counties and others from across the state and neighboring states that are following this project very closely. They are watching intently because they want to see if this kind of ‘educational hub’ can be replicated all over our great state – which I believe it can and will be used to continue to “Grow Nebraska.”
Others said it is a model that could replicated wherever the need exists.
“We truly believe that our model is innovative and will be a model for small, rural communities, not only in Nebraska, but nationally, to follow,” Peitzmeier said.
Chipps agreed saying, “This is the ‘grand experiment’ for America’s rural communities. It includes all facets of lifelong learning – from a student in a school setting getting exposed to multiple career opportunities, to a college student learning high demand, high pay technical skills, to the local workforce improving and refining skill sets, and to an individual taking courses for personal enjoyment. It will all be available through this educational and training center.”
“This is an example of a premium setting that provides premium education in order to have premium jobs,” Chipps said.