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State college plan is a good one

November 10, 2018

We’re pleased that Wayne State College — and the rest of the state college system in Nebraska — is taking a pro-active approach to addressing workforce development issues.

Recently unveiled was NebraskaFWD (Future Workforce Development) — a single initiative that incorporates several important facets, including:

— Developing a qualified workforce for high-need occupations throughout the state.

— Expanding student access to higher education; and

— Increasing college affordability and decreasing student debt

“I am very excited about NebraskaFWD initiative, and believe it will make a difference for our students, for the colleges of the Nebraska State College System, for the rural regions we serve, and ultimately for the entire State of Nebraska,” said Stan Carpenter, the system’s soon-to-be-retired chancellor.

A key aspect of the initiative is seeking to roll existing state financial support with some new dollars to be able to fully implement NebraskaFWD. That’s easier said than done when the agricultural economy in Nebraska and other factors have impacted state revenue totals.

But in a recent informational session in Norfolk, Wayne State President Marysz Rames stressed that even if the state funding does not come to fruition as hoped, it won’t stop Nebraska’s three state colleges from doing what they can to address workforce development issues. That’s a smart move.

If the push for state funding is successful, the initiative would:

1. Target scholarships in areas of workforce needs in Nebraska, especially in rural parts of the state

2. Work toward stable or decreasing tuition rates to make college as affordable as possible.

3. Seek input from businesses and industries across the state to identify pressing or potential areas of workforce need with the goal of graduating more students in strategically selected programs aligned to workforce needs — especially in rural Nebraska.

Additionally, the state colleges are working to create the foundation for Nebraska-FWD by proposing a partnership with the Nebraska Department of Labor to identify high-need workforce opportunities and create a pipeline of talent that has the higher education needed to be successful in their chosen career path.

There’s much yet to be done, but the NebraskaFWD initiative holds significant promise.

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