College to expand truck driving, welding in South Sioux City

To meet requests from business and industry representatives and meet the state’s goal of increasing workforce opportunities, Northeast Community College will increase its presence on the expanded South Sioux City campus by expanding offerings in two programs.

On Tuesday, the college’s board of trustees finally approved a plan to construct an 11,600-square-foot commercial driver’s license (CDL) truck driving training facility and adjacent truck driving range, as well as an addition of 1,500 square feet to its existing industrial training building to increase welding program capacity. The facilities and driving range will be located just west of the main building on the expanded campus at 1001 College Way.

All funding for the projects will come from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds with other federal grant funds and donations through fundraising efforts.

The CDL Training Building will include two classrooms, a simulator room, instructor offices, drive-thru access, and an outdoor shelter for storage and recharging. The CDL boot camp will provide adequate space for instruction in all the maneuvers required to earn a CDL certificate. The addition to the existing industrial training facility will support an expanded area for 20 stands and provide space for improved student supervision and safety.

Leah Barrett, president of the college, said the expansion of the programs will provide more opportunities for people who are looking to expand their skillset while seeking employment in the two fields that are in high demand in the region.

“This project will enable Northeast Community College to meet growing employer demands for workers with specialized truck driving and welding skills to fill vacant positions and drive business growth in the region,” Barrett said. “It will also improve the attainment rate in the Northeast 20-county service area and the state of Nebraska in an effort to meet the 70 percent goal set by the Legislature last year.”

Legislative Resolution 335’s goal is for at least 70 percent of Nebrascans ages 25 to 34 to have a college degree, certificate, diploma, or other postsecondary or industry-recognized credential with economic value by 2030. Encourage recommendations of community colleges, among other higher education institutions, to adopt the attainment rate as evidence of their support for that goal.

In June 2022, board members held roundtables with the heads of several businesses and organizations in South Sioux City and the surrounding region to discuss their goals and workforce demands.

“We wanted to listen to understand the needs that exist,” Barrett said. “Since that meeting last summer, university leaders have had additional meetings with employers across the area.”

The expansion in South Sioux City aligns with Northeast’s strategic plan goals, including student pathways to success, excellence and innovation in educational programs, and effective resource management.

No college capital funds are expected to be used for the $9.8 million project. It will be funded primarily with ARPA federal funds. In 2022, the then governor. Pete Ricketts signed legislation that approved the use of ARPA dollars for community college workforce development projects intended to help the state recover from the pandemic.

In addition, Northeast will use $500,000 from a $1 million US Department of Labor Community Funding Appropriations request that was in the FY 2023 omnibus appropriations budget. The request, supported by Congressman Adrian Smith, was passed by Congress in December. It was a joint request with Western Nebraska Community College to support the purchase of equipment and the hiring of faculty members to expand CDL programs at both institutions.

Work on the driving range is expected to begin this spring; Construction on the housing projects is expected to begin in Fall 2023 with completion in Summer 2024.

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