Published Friday, January 31st, 2020
Wayne State College's new coop program will contribute to workforce and economic development in Northeast Nebraska. The Aksarben Foundation plans to support the first cohort of these scholars.
Wayne State College President Marysz Rames announced the implementation of a creative and innovative cooperative (coop) education program that will support workforce and economic development in Northeast Nebraska at a news conference Jan. 31 in Norfolk, Neb. The kickoff of the coop program was made possible by the Aksarben Foundation, which has agreed to support the first cohort of cooperative education scholars. Aksarben’s generosity will allow Wayne State to begin the first cohort this fall semester with 15 students who will receive scholarship support through the program.
The cooperative education program is one of several strategies connected to the “Northeast Nebraska Growing Together” initiative that was developed as part of the Aksarben Foundation challenge to address the workforce crisis in Nebraska. Under the leadership of Mike Flood, former Speaker of the Nebraska Legislature and current Aksarben board member, a group of community leaders identified six bold strategies to transform Northeast Nebraska:
- Downtown development
- Founders in residence
- Cooperative scholarships
- Workforce retraining
- Artists in residence
- Early childhood education
“Students will be selected for the cooperative education program from the incoming freshmen class for Fall 2020,” said Dr. Marysz Rames, president of Wayne State. “They will reside in a community of learners at Wayne State where they will receive a prescribed and accelerated curriculum that will arm them with the knowledge as well as the soft skills to work in a business in their senior year. The Wayne State faculty should be commended for working in tandem with industry to adjust their curriculum to meet the needs of Northeast Nebraska by preparing students to be successful in this program focused on workforce development.”
“The Cooperative Education Program is a great example of a community - businesses, educators, and public servants - rallying together to take responsibility for its future,” said Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts. “The next generation of Nebraska leaders won’t appear out of thin air. They’ll need to be mentored, taught, and connected to opportunities where they can contribute their skills. I applaud the Aksarben Foundation, Mike Flood, and Wayne State College for stepping up to envision and fund this program to grow Northeast Nebraska.”
“During their first three years in Wayne, students will also have the opportunity to engage with Norfolk business partners through site visits, job shadowing, and mentorships,” Rames continued. “In their senior year, the cooperative education students will move to Norfolk where they will earn 18 credit hours by working for a Norfolk business for approximately 30 hours a week over a nine-month period. As part of the program, they will be required to reside in housing in the downtown Norfolk area, which will provide them with an opportunity to engage academically and socially with their peers. This portion of the program will help students connect with the community and gain an appreciation for the many exciting social and cultural opportunities available in the city of Norfolk. Upon graduation in May, the goal is to have these students hired into full-time high-skilled and high-wage positions in Northeast Nebraska.”
“Aksarben scholarships date back over 60 years and have long been a cornerstone of the Aksarben mission,” said Aksarben President, Sandra Reding. “Scholarships are ‘ground-zero’ when it comes to supplying the demand for new workers. These scholarships will allow students the opportunity to study rapidly changing industries such as information technology, business or communication, and have the opportunity to secure employment prior to graduation near their homes and families.”
“The process to select these students will begin immediately” Rames said. “So, if you are interested in earning a degree in either information technology, business, or communication and want an opportunity to have a robust, hands-on learning experience that will allow you to remain in Northeast Nebraska, please go to our website at www.wsc.edu or www.wsc.edu/growtogether to learn how to apply. Students selected for the coop program will receive $2,500 their freshmen year, $3,000 their sophomore year, $3,500 their junior year, and $15,000 their senior year, which equates to full tuition and housing. The total for the scholarship package is $24,000.”