Northeast Receives Workforce Training Funds from Walmart Foundation

by jamesc  5/14/2014 2:48:56 PM --  WASHINGTON – Northeast Community College is one of 17 community colleges across the nation to receive funding to support manufacturing workforce training opportunities in Northeast Nebraska.


The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) has announced a $4.19 million, three-year grant from Walmart Foundation to support the Job Ready, Willing and Able (JRWA) initiative, including $2.67 million directly supporting the 17 community colleges. The JRWA initiative will provide middle-skill training, industry recognized credentials, and access to employment across varying industry sectors in each of the 17 community college service areas. Students who have access to high-quality education and training programs, relevant and quality job opportunities, and public benefits and supports are more apt to persist and succeed.  

“We are proud to continue our work with Walmart Foundation at a time when the nation is focused on middle-skill careers and opportunities. This initiative is a model for how community colleges can connect students with specific, sustainable jobs in their communities and contribute to long-term economic growth,” said Walter Bumphus, AACC president and CEO.

The 17 participating colleges were selected through a highly competitive process. Four colleges, including Northeast Community College, will be mentor colleges, with support from AACC, the National Association of Workforce Boards, AACC Affiliate Councils and industry associations. 

Mentors were selected from AACC’s 2008–2010 Workforce Economic Opportunity Initiative, funded by Walmart Foundation, and will provide additional guidance to 13 mentee colleges. All 17 colleges address current and potential growth of jobs in their service areas. Examples range from unemployed mineworkers in rural Kentucky learning electrical linemen skills to sector-strategies including industrial mechanics and manufacturing certificates in Utah, viticulture skills in Oregon, office assistant training in Pennsylvania and Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) programs in Colorado.

All colleges will work closely with local businesses, economic development leaders and area workforce systems to collaboratively address the needs of the unemployed. The initiative aims to provide more than 5,000 unemployed adults with new skills, credentials and jobs.

Dr. Michael Chipps, Northeast president, said funding from Walmart Foundation will aid the College in its Diversified Manufacturing Certificate program. Northeast was able to launch the certificate program in Diversified Manufacturing through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant.

“In order to meet the needs of the manufacturing community, the College must promote and expand current offerings to continue to fill the need for workers,” Dr. Chipps said. “Promoting career awareness and the employment opportunities are critical to the success of this project. Funding from Walmart Foundation will assist the College in training workers so they are job ready, maximizing production at all levels. In addition to our main campus in Norfolk, Northeast will offer the training at our extended campuses in O’Neill, South Sioux City, and West Point to better serve our 20-county service region.”

Local and area manufacturing representatives also pleased Walmart Foundation is providing the grant funding.

“Industry changes call for increased workforce skills in technologies and automated systems and flexibility to adapt in response to market demand,” said Dirk Petersen, vice president/general manager of Nucor Steel in Norfolk. “Nucor seeks a workforce with increased skills for production, innovation, enhancing our capacity for product improvement, access to new markets, sustainable solutions, and strengthened customer satisfaction. We are pleased to have been involved in the curriculum developed for Northeast’s Diversified Manufacturing certificate and look forward to working on the diploma program,” he said. “The Diversified Manufacturing certificate will prepare students for the expectations and working conditions in a manufacturing career.”

Smeal Fire Apparatus in Snyder is another important supporter of the program at Northeast. Jeff Scheer, chief financial officer, said, “As a major competitor in the fire and rescue industry, we manufacture thousands of fire trucks and aerial ladders that protect lives and property throughout North America. To be successful, it is imperative that we have well-trained workers to manufacture our high quality products. Smeal will have an integral role in Northeast’s Diversified Manufacturing certificate.

Scheer said in addition to recommending or requiring participation in the program for its employees and potential employees who need advanced training skills, Smeal will hire graduates who successfully complete either a certificate or diploma through the program for its open positions; support both credit and non-credit programming developed for manufacturing; and offer job shadowing or class projects for the Diversified Manufacturing program.

The certificate is also an opportunity to recruit people to live and work in Northeast Nebraska, according to Mark Zimmerer, president of the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Through the Norfolk Area Recruiters, we are working to attract graduates from the area to return to the communities where they grew up for new business and job opportunities. We support Northeast Community College’s effort to provide training for manufacturing jobs in Norfolk and throughout Northeast Nebraska. We will work hard to promote these opportunities through the Chamber’s website and social media, as well as conversations with prospective community members.”

Chipps said the job outlook in Northeast Nebraska is excellent. “Between 2012 and 2013, a new report shows that the manufacturing industry added 166 jobs in Northeast’s 20-county service area. Most of these new jobs were in primary metal manufacturing and fabricated metal production manufacturing. Manufacturing makes up 15 percent of the gross regional product (GRP) for Northeast Nebraska, followed by government at 14 percent, and agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting at 11 percent.

In addition to Northeast Community College, the other selected mentor colleges are Arkansas Northeastern College (AR); Umpqua Community College (OR); and Northern Virginia Community College (VA).

The 13 mentee colleges selected for the JRWA initiative are Grossmont College (CA); Community College of Aurora (CO); St. Johns River State College (FL); Kirkwood Community College (IA); Ivy Tech Community College (IN); Hazard Community and Technical College (KY); Jamestown Community College (NY); Cuyahoga Community College (OH); Montgomery County Community College (PN); Northeast State Community College (TN); Tarrant County College District (TX); Snow College (UT); and West Virginia University at Parkersburg (WV).


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