Community colleges host first state apprenticeship summit in Kearney
KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - The Younes Conference Center in Kearney filled up with different staff members from local colleges as they learned more about apprenticeships so they could pass it along to students on campus.
Event officials expected about 100 guests; however, more than 250 teachers, counselors, directors and business owners attended the inaugural summit Tuesday.
Northeast Community College, Southeast Community College and Central Community College hosted the event and advised attendees that the experience lasts longer than an internship and has better pay. This allows college students to work without having the worry of making a livable income while taking courses.
Apprenticeship Director Kim Andersen at Northeast Community College said this doesn’t only apply to students enrolled at a university.
“There is also room for our adult learners who maybe started out a career doing something total different and now they want to change careers,” she said. “They need an option to make that career switch and be successful. Apprenticeship programs are really catered to those individuals as well.”
They were able to do this after the three colleges received a $4 million grant in July 2022. Andersen said the process of navigating through the workforce can be challenging and that is why pushing for apprenticeships can solve a common issue within the state.
“There are so many amazing things that are happening in lots of great industries, but just like all across the state everyone struggles with workforce and the talent pipeline,” Andersen said. “There is a huge group of individuals gathered here today talking about that workforce pipeline and how to think innovatively.”
CCC’S Apprenticeship Director Catrina Gray said internships are great but apprenticeships can help the balance of experience, income and school work.
“You are paid on the first day. You are an employee,” she said. “We ask a lot of our companies if they will work with their apprentices. Give them a 32-hour work week and receive full benefits.”
Even if somebody were to pick a place where they end up finding no interest, the process of changing paths aren’t too difficult.
“I had one gentleman that wanted to started in mechatronics and then he learned IT. He started with mechatronics and got in a class and said this isn’t what I want,” Gray said. “Thankfully he didn’t start a job at that because we offer like ‘hey why don’t you take a class in mechatronics before you actually go and work in mechatronics.’”
She has been the director at CCC for three years and now that the event has passed, Gray can cross this off her bucket list.
“I told myself I wanted to do the first ever apprenticeship summit in the state of Nebraska and our dreams have come true,” she said. “In April of this year we started after we got our grant.”
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