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Collaboration between industry and education

The manufacturing industry in Nebraska is facing an employment crisis. Due to technological advancements in equipment and software, a low unemployment rate at 2.5 percent in April, 2015 (NDOL, 2015) and a rapidly retiring workforce, employment shortages are becoming more common to most manufacturing companies here.

As business and industry leaders struggled with employment issues and a shrinking workforce, they began searching for solutions. One key issue facing these leaders is manufacturing jobs now require more advanced technical knowledge and skill than in the past. Also, low unemployment numbers provide very few eligible workers from which to choose. Finding few options left, manufacturers reached out to the educational community for help to find solutions to the problem.

As leaders began to discuss the issues, it became clear that collaboration between business and industry, public schools and Central Community College (CCC) was essential. The leaders worked hard to find potential solutions for their problems.

The collaboration began when Hastings High School (HHS) found they had a need for an industrial technology teacher to teach their transportation classes. After searching for a replacement with no luck, HPS reached out to CCC for help. An instructor was hired by CCC to teach automotive technology curriculum at HHS. The coursework is offered for college credit as well as high school credit and the students can earn a certificate in automotive technology from CCC while attending high school.

The work done by the educational partners led to the addition of a second career pathway at HHS in the advanced manufacturing area. Manufacturing industry leaders met with the educational leadership from HPS and CCC with concerns about current and future workforce. The idea of a career pathway starting at HHS and filtering to CCC was formed. The career pathway would increase awareness in manufacturing careers, offer students high school credit for their courses and teach CCC advanced manufacturing design technology curriculum.

In order to get this project going, some initial obstacles needed to be overcome. Manufacturing programs are expensive due to the cost of technology and equipment and the equipment and lab area at HHS was in need of an upgrade. Industry and educational partners got together and raised approximately $150,000 to get the program started. Equipment was purchased, the facilities were upgraded and the high school and college faculty began working together to prepare the curriculum.  

The work done to create the automotive and manufacturing career pathways has led to other opportunities. Hastings Public Schools and CCC continue to look at other future growth options and additional career pathways for the future. Industry and education leaders continue to explore other avenues to expose students to manufacturing careers through collaboration and marketing. Additional career pathway programs have been established in automotive technology through collaboration between CCC with Kearney Public Schools, Grand Island Public Schools Career Pathways Institute (CPI) and Lexington Publics Schools. Furthermore, career pathways in advanced manufacturing, drafting and design, construction, welding, and information technology have be added at CPI in Grand Island. Starting this fall, Career Pathways will be offered through a partnership between CCC and the South Central Unified School district.

The future looks very bright. Business and industry partners continue to search for additional avenues to educate potential students about job and career options and CCC continues to work to serve learners of all types. Non-traditional students: adult learners, veterans, as well as traditional students and anyone looking for a new career are all welcome to grow as learners and to find specialized education in multiple career fields. These more traditional avenues continue to be viable means to build an educated workforce and to fill employer needs.

All of these partnerships are helping to build in options for area students to find paths to further education and ultimately, careers.

About the Author

Mark Funkey
Administrator, Central Community College

Mark is currently an administrator at Central Community College. He works with the Skilled and Technical Sciences programs. He and his wife, as well as their three children live in Hastings. 


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