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Individuals who have seen their employment affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are turning to Northeast Community College to be trained or retrained with skillsets that will allow them to pursue employment in high-demand careers and industries. 

About 50 people have been approved or enrolled in programs so far with funding from the Nebraska Workforce Retraining Initiative (WRI), according to a college news release.

The Nebraska Department of Economic Development and Department of Labor program provides scholarship dollars to cover tuition and fees to eligible individuals who enroll in designated training programs. The average scholarship will be approximately $1,100.

Cyndi Hanson, dean of workforce development at Northeast and executive director of the Sioux City campus, said the college has capacity to enroll several hundred more students who qualify.

“With local unemployment hovering around 4% and the strong work ethic of Nebraskans, we suspect many people who are eligible don’t realize they have the opportunity to become qualified for a new career with little to no out-of-pocket costs,” Hanson said. “If individuals are working part time or in a temporary status instead of full time or at lower wages than prior to COVID-19 pandemic, they are eligible to apply.”

Hanson said the most popular program so far has been the field of nurse aide and medication aide. Other programs that are open to eligible students who wish to utilize the scholarship include community health work, professional truck driving, machining and manufacturing automation and more.

New programs and classes at Northeast include fields such as short-term welding and fiber optic installation.

The grant also provides a career coach to students. Hanson said many programs are available online for those who are working part time, have children at home or are concerned about health consequences of attending classes.

“Our career coach will assist with exploratory conversations to find the program that is the right fit for anyone who applies,” Hanson said.

Eligible students must meet at least one of a group of guidelines that include being unemployed or unable to find a job because of COVID-19, among several other scenarios.

Employers also may refer candidates. One scholarship will be awarded per applicant, and all courses must be completed by March 31, 2021.

Students who drop, withdraw or change plans will be required to repay funds. Deadline for student applications is Wednesday, Oct. 28.

“This program can be a life-changing experience,” Hanson said. “It can really turn catastrophic circumstances outside of one’s control into a positive outcome. Just today, I had a student start truck driving classes. He’s wanted to be a truck driver all his life but never believed he could afford to get licensed. What started out as a tremendous loss has turned into a dream come true.”

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Want to learn more?

To learn more about the State of Nebraska/Northeast Community College Nebraska Workforce Retraining Initiative, go online to northeast.edu/workforce-retraining or call 402-371-2020 or 800-348-9033.

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