Northeast one of 15 U.S. community colleges selected for pilot project

Northeast Community College is one of 15 community colleges to be part of a nationwide pilot program.

Northeast Community College is one of 15 “trailblazing” community colleges serving over 200,000 students from across the country to be selected to participate in a pilot project where representatives of the institutions will work together to tackle challenges and opportunities on their campuses and communities.

The National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship’s (NACCE) Entrepreneurial College of the Future initiative features a team of leading experts in the formation of ideas and concepts, fundraising, student and employee engagement and workforce development. They will come together to identify best innovative practices that will be shared through NACCE’s network of hundreds of colleges reaching over four million students.

Specific areas of the pilot include workforce development, fundraising, student success through enrollment and retention, and increasing engagement and retention of college personnel.

“The Entrepreneurial College of the Future serves as national resource for best practices and as a driver of innovation in communities and community colleges,” said Rebecca Corbin, president and CEO of NACCE. “This new pilot will drive innovation at all levels of entrepreneurial ecosystems across the country. It also charts NACCE’s course of growth through innovation for the next three years as we work to increase our membership.

Joining Northeast in the initiative are 14 other community colleges in Arizona, California, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming. The initiative also includes a group of 65 colleges that will co-create a comprehensive database of innovative approaches that will be available to all NACCE members.

“It is important to incorporate entrepreneurial practices into multiple programs to support new business development,” said Dr. Leah Barrett, president of Northeast. “This is a great opportunity to support our early childhood educators, our machinists and our welders as they master the technical skills and learn how to start their own business.”

Barrett said engagement with NACCE also provides additional avenues for funding that aligns with the “Nebraska spirit of problem solving, can-do attitude.” This includes a project in Norfolk that Northeast is working on that will feature workforce and customized training lab space, extra-curricular activities for middle and high school students and the development of new business ventures.

“To be selected as one of the 15 colleges to co-create the 'Entrepreneurial College of the Future' is a great opportunity as well as the ability to work with a talented group of colleges and business leaders,” said Lori McClaren, business instructor at Northeast’s extended campus in South Sioux City. “The capability to develop business pathways for our students and community members that may not have existed before is very powerful for rural Nebraska. Northeast focuses on serving its communities in a very vital way.”

Lisa Guenther, early childhood education instructor, also sees the pilot as a positive for a program such as hers. She hopes the collaborative process will benefit the work that is already underway at each college in the pilot.

“In America, Nebraska has the highest percentage of parents in the workforce. Thus quality childcare is a part of this important workforce need,” Guenther said. “Northeast Community College’s Early Childhood Education program is a part of the solution to meet this need.”

Guenther said the education options in the early childhood education field are built-on knowledge and experience in child development and the needs of growing children which leads to students graduating and opening their own licensed childcare or preschool.

“They contribute to the growth and education of children by working in childcare or preschool settings. The Nebraska Growing Together Initiative, the Buffett Institute, and the Aksarben Foundation have the goal of making Nebraska the best place to be a baby. This entrepreneurial program will help increase the effectiveness of our college and what we can offer to our students to meet these needs and goals.”

The Entrepreneurial College of the Future initiative is supported by the Everyday Entrepreneur Venture Fund, which provides seed funding to student entrepreneurs served by community colleges, and the Phillip E. & Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation, which sponsors both the “Pitch for Skilled Trades” competition and the new “Pitch for the Foundation.” Both competitions will take place at NACCE’s Annual Conference in October in Boston. A total of $300,000 in prizes will be awarded for innovative ideas pitched by community college teams.

Participating colleges in the pilot program receive free consulting, mentoring from experts, and travel conference support valued at more than $25,000 for each college. In addition, they will receive facilitated monthly calls with ideation and development experts; travel and registration support for college teams to NACCE conferences.