HOLDREGE – With local companies struggling to find skilled workers to fill jobs in nursing, auto-body mechanics, construction trades, diesel mechanics, welding and manufacturing trades, the Phelps County Development Corporation is researching solutions to help.
A group of PCDC board members, staff and local business people visited the Career Pathways Institute in Grand Island to see how it works and explore the possibility of starting a similar program locally.
The program would train local students interested in these high-demand fields while they are still in high school, making them more employable after high school or giving them a head start on college.
PCDC Board President Fred Diedrichsen said high school career training centers are a trend in education, and it’s something that Phelps County should consider.
“If we want to expand and recruit new businesses to the county, and if we want to have more skilled and trained workers, these types of programs help,” he said. “It’s also a good way to retain kids who graduate from high school here to keep them in the area.”
Diedrichsen said local employers such as BD, Allmand Bros., nursing homes and PMHC have said it’s difficult to find skilled workers for certain positions. Part of PCDC’s role in business retention is to assist local companies with finding solutions to these problems, and the Career Pathways programs may fit the bill.
Grand Island’s Career Pathways Institute opened its doors in the Fall of 2013. Initially, 150 students enrolled in the program, with room to enroll up to 400 students. The program is currently preparing high school students for employment in such fields as business, marketing, advanced manufacturing, construction, automotive, healthcare, and early childhood education.
Diedrichsen said students in Grand Island must have a 2.0 GPA to be accepted into the program. If they are accepted, they spend a three-hour block of their school day on job-specific training at the CPI site. When they graduate, they have a certificate for a certain trade and could make more money out of high school than if they didn’t have the certificate. Businesses in Grand Island will hire kids with the certificates at a higher pay scale because of their prior training.
“It makes these kids more employable,” Fred said.
And, if the students want to attend college, the training gives them a head start and college credit to continue their education.
The Grand Island career program was the first in the state, and Diedrichsen said now 10 other communities have followed, including a new career training program in the South Central Unified District in Sandy Creek. Sandy Creek received a $125,000 Developing Youth Talent Initiative Grant awarded by Governor Ricketts to help launch its program.
The Phelps County group that toured the Grand Island program included Diedrichsen, Diana Watson, Regional Director for Central Community College Holdrege; former State Sen. Tom Carlson; PCDC Director Ron Tillery, PCDC Program Coordinator Alli Donohue; BD Human Resources Brian Deakin and Janet Boehler.
Tillery said PCDC is interested in learning more about these career ready education models, but it is not yet a project they are pursuing.
“We do see this concept as a potential solution to filling local demand for skilled workers while also providing an alternative career development track for students,” Tillery said. “We need to build local consensus first – that this is a workable solution for Holdrege and the surrounding area.”
If you have an interest in further exploring these solutions and would like to be part of the discussion, please contact Ron Tillery at PCDC at (308) 995-4148.