Northeast to share in $4 million federal grand to expand apprenticeship programs

Northeast Community College is one of three Nebraska community colleges to share a multimillion-dollar federal grant to strengthen and modernize existing registered apprenticeships programs. The $4 million U.S. Department of Labor Apprenticeship Building America grant is part of $121 million awarded to 30 organizations.

The Apprenticeship Building America grant program advances the department's efforts to expand and modernize registered apprenticeship by increasing the number of programs and apprentices, diversifying the industries that use registered apprenticeships and improving the access to and performance of registered apprenticeship programs for underrepresented and underserved communities.

Northeast will use the funds to create a multi-network registered apprenticeship hub along with Central Community College, Southeast Community College and other support partners. The coalition will serve 59 counties or half of the state's population. Central is the lead institution in administering the grant funds. "Project Elevate," as it is known, will expand the utilization of registered apprenticeships in rural eastern and central Nebraska through activities centered on promotion and outreach, education and employer supports. The colleges will develop apprenticeship occupations, utilizing their educational programs and courses as the required related training, in collaboration with industry advisers. The apprenticeship hub will conduct outreach and education to help employers better understand what registered apprenticeships are and how they can be implemented in their businesses by partnering with Project Elevate.

Northeast Community College became a registered apprenticeship sponsor in July 2021. Since then, the college has successfully enrolled four apprentices and six pre-apprentices in its IT (information technology) Helpdesk Apprenticeship and its Certified Nurse Assistant Apprenticeship programs, said Kimberly Andersen, youth apprenticeship coordinator, "We have partnered with seven businesses, some of which are still actively searching for apprentices to hire," she said. "Over the last several years, Northeast has made huge strides in educating employers and the general public on the apprenticeship model and the benefits it provides. We look forward to continuing this work through Project Elevate."

Another unique aspect of the Apprenticeship Building America grant is that Northeast will be able to provide incentive funding to businesses that partner with it to help offset the upfront costs associated with starting an apprenticeship program.

Applied Connective Technologies, a technology solutions provider with offices in Albion, Columbus and Norfolk, is one business that has partnered with Northeast's apprenticeship program. Ed Knott, president, encourages other businesses to consider working with apprenticeships to build their workforce.

"Applied Connective is excited to be participating in the apprenticeship program through Northeast Community College. Developing a pipeline for new technical talent is key to our growth, and this program helps meet that demand in a way that benefits our organization and the apprentice."

"Our existing industry partners recognize that in a highly competitive labor force connecting to workers early, providing opportunity for upskilling while on the job and outlining a path for growth is essential to recruitment and retention," said Cyndi Hanson, dean of workforce development at Northeast. "Additionally, seasoned workers have the opportunity to share their passion and years of learning with apprentices as mentors and on-the-job trainers."