Seven-member educational compact

DR. MICHELE GILL, interim vice president of educational services at Northeast Community College, signs an agreement as part of a new seven-member Northeast Nebraska educational compact with goals that are designed to contribute to workforce and talent development while serving the educational needs of youth and lifelong learners. Also pictured are Tara Smydra, associate dean of agriculture, math and science at Northeast (to Gill’s left), Corinne Morris, dean of agriculture, math and science at Northeast and Dr. Michael Oltrogge, president of the Nebraska Indian Community College. 

WAYNE — A new educational compact has formed in Northeast Nebraska with goals that are designed to contribute to workforce and talent development while serving the educational needs of youth and lifelong learners.

On Tuesday, seven education partners gathered in Wayne to sign an agreement intended to improve college and career readiness, educational attainment, community and economic vitality, and growth by combining the strengths of the entities to increase educational and workforce development as it relates to agriculture and natural resources in the region.

Members in the Northeast Nebraska Agriculture and Natural Resources Education Compact include Little Priest Tribal College, Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, Nebraska Indian Community College, Northeast Community College, University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Wayne State College and Wayne Community Schools.

Partners said they will draw on the strength of each entity to achieve a set of goals backed by strategies that are designed to capitalize on the region’s rich expertise in education and workforce solutions. The approach reflects a blending of efforts from a variety of educational and business partners that will serve students, industry and the state of Nebraska.

“We are pleased to be working with our educational partners in this compact to formalize the work Northeast Community College has already undertaken to educate the future agricultural workforce in the region,” said Mary Honke, co-interim president at Northeast. “As agriculture accounts for one out of every two jobs in the region, the signing of this compact agreement is another opportunity to position our graduates to assume those positions in order to help Northeast Nebraska sustain and grow its rural population.”

The goals of the partnership are to provide education platforms for a range of learners in resilient food, energy, water, and societal systems in alignment with career opportunities, as well as prepare teachers, curriculum and professional development programs for pre- and in-service educators to respond to the increased need for highly qualified K-12 agricultural science and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) educators. Additional objectives are intended to encourage workforce development solutions that are designed for the agriculture and natural resources industries in the region.

Honke said community colleges play a significant role in preparing graduates with two-year degrees to meet employers’ needs with well-trained employees.

“The programs offered at Northeast Community College, for example, embrace the needs of the region,” she said. “We serve as a community collaborator — whether it’s for workforce development training or for economic development opportunities.

“This work is critical to the rural revitalization efforts underway across Northeast and North Central Nebraska.”

Many students are interested in beginning their education at Northeast Community College and then transfer to another institution to finish a higher degree program. Honke said Northeast has strong transfer agreement relationships with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Wayne State College.

The speakers emphasized the importance of agriculture for Nebraska and the role educators have to play in ensuring students have access to quality educational opportunities to sustain the workforce.

The compact’s stated goals are to improve college and career readiness, educational attainment and community and economic vitality and growth.

“Wayne State faculty and administrators worked with a steering committee for more than a year to arrive at a framework that emphasizes measurable goals and strategies directed at the future of agriculture in our state,” said Steven Elliott, vice president for academic affairs at Wayne State. “We are understandably proud to partner with University of Nebraska as the land-grant leader in agriculture, our two-year partners, and K-12 educators. We look forward to seeing great results from this partnership.”

The compact will draw on the strength of the partners to achieve a set of goals backed by strategies designed to capitalize on the region’s rich expertise in education and workforce solutions. The strategies reflect a blending of efforts from a variety of educational and business partners that will serve students, industry, and the state of Nebraska.

“The compact we signed today was a powerful example of the strategic importance of partnerships in higher education,” said Dr. Marysz Rames, president of Wayne State College. “This compact provides a great opportunity to use the strengths of our schools to provide students with clear pathways to successful careers in agriculture. The Nebraska workforce relies on collaborative, forward-thinking institutions to guarantee resilience and growth. Wayne State College is proud to provide leadership for this valuable sector of the state economy.”

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