Grand Island Co-Op Program
When you think of the business make-up in Grand Island, do you first think of professional services, information technology and corporate headquarters? Do sectors such as manufacturing, retail and restaurants come to mind?
You may be surprised to learn that Grand Island's asset base is attractive to manufacturing and distribution activities but not as attractive to many "white-collar" sectors that are desired and necessary for Grand Island's continued growth and market diversification.
Other key findings relating to target sector development identified community weaknesses that inhibit competitiveness were:
- Very small percentage of the workforce with a bachelor's degree or higher
- Proximity to four-year degree opportunities/lack of a large four-year campus
- Workforce shortages reported for a variety of skills and occupations
These challenges were supported by research done for the Nebraska Thriving Index. Our region ranks 1st for labor force participation but has a low rank for other measures. The Tri-Cities region ranks below the peer average for both the high school and college attainment rates.
As we consider today's careers, and more importantly, tomorrow, we look first to expected growth rates for occupations. While all employment in Grand Island is projected to grow 0.4% over the next ten years, occupations typically requiring a postgraduate degree are expected to grow 1.4% per year. Those requiring a bachelor's degree forecast to grow 0.6% per year, and occupations typically needing a 2-year degree or certificate are expected to grow 0.7% per year.
These projections make it imperative for Grand Island to improve degree-based education opportunities to develop a workforce that meets the needs of our community's employers.
In response to these findings, Grow Grand Island developed a three-pronged workforce sustainability strategy that includes growing our own by retaining our talent, retooling our existing talent by upskilling and reskilling and attracting external talent.
Through Grow Grand Island, funding for a Cooperative Degree-Based Internship Program — an essential piece to the overall workforce sustainability strategy because it provides the means to attract talent with degrees, which helps address these identified weaknesses — has been secured for three years.
The Cooperative Degree-Based Internship Program has three primary activities that work together for the overall impact:
- Identifying internship opportunities with colleges and universities for students who are pursuing degrees;
- Understanding the demands and needs of Grand Island area businesses; and
- Connecting the college students to the Grand Island businesses in a meaningful and rewarding internship opportunity with the hope of retaining them as full-time employees.
Grand Island's community leadership is very interested in working with various colleges and universities on this program to create new knowledge capital, increase high skill, high wage, high demand employment opportunities in Grand Island. Most importantly, the program will meet the expanding needs of today's businesses, particularly in the areas of Finance/Business Administration, Information Technology, Manufacturing Management and Marketing.
Any and all institutions who show commitment (via financial contribution) to the end goal of increasing the number of individuals in Grand Island with post-secondary education and degrees will be welcomed to participate. Converting interns to full-time employees has a proven success rate – over 60% of interns are retained as employees.
In addition to executing the Cooperative Degree-Based Internship Program, the Workforce Sustainability Coordinator will also work with colleges and universities to identify our community members who almost earned degrees; these non-completers are candidates to finish their degrees and participate in internships as well.
Only by changing our approach to workforce development and attracting young professionals to the community, and committing focused attention and resources to these priorities will we see our collective goals of Growing Grand Island accomplished.
Grand Island Co-Op Program in Partnership with Wayne State College
Partnered with Wayne State College (WSC) and Grow Grand Island, the Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce (GICC) is working on a plan to bring young talent to the Grand Island area by the 2024 school year.
Through a cooperative educational program, GICC seeks to create a path for students by combining classroom education with real work experience for college credit.
This new program recruits qualified high school seniors planning to attend Wayne State College, who are committed to working in Grand Island. Students in specific degree programs will have scholarship support from WSC throughout the first three years. During their final year, the students will reside in Grand Island where they will have a full-time internship with a local business.
The students will ultimately form a pool of high-skill and high-demand workers for our community.
During the student's first three years of school, they will be focused on completing core classes and participate in career readiness activities, including business site visits and professional development workshops.
Employers will hire the students for a full-time paid position that is relevant to the student’s career in their senior year. Employers will be part of the student’s development by hosting job site visits, information sessions, panels, workshops, and mock interviews through the first three years at WSC.
Taking part in this initiative will give employers access to:
- Students with high-tech skills that can provide new perspectives
- A recruiting pipeline while onboarding students into your work culture
- A way to preview and train future employees before graduating
- Access to skilled, short-term, cost-effective workforce to fill potential full-time positions
- Reduced cost associated with recruiting and training new hires
The first cohort will start with 15 students. The number will increase each cohort by 5 students. Once the third cohort is in Grand Island, we will have a total of 60 students living here, with 35 being bachelor’s degree holders from the first two cohorts. The Grand Island can benefit from having those students build a family here since bachelor’s degree holders are twice more likely to volunteer and contribute to charities more than triple the amount than those without a college degree. Not only that but on average they earn $2.3 million in lifetime earnings. Having the students start their careers in Grand Island can potential make a ripple effect on community growth.
The following areas of study qualify for the Grand Island Co-Op program:
Human Resources Management
COMPUTER INFORMATION SYSTEMS
Integrated Technology Support
Networking and Cyber Security
COMPUTER SCIENCE INDUSTRIAL TECHNOLOGY
Drafting and Design
“As Mayor of Grand Island, I am pleased to support the Cooperative Education Program which will bring students from Wayne State College who are committed to working in Grand Island. Our business community asked me to help with the need to recruit employees for high skill, and high wage positions which would otherwise go unfilled.The Cooperative Education Program is part of our effort to keep our young people in Grand Island and to attract new people to come to Grand Island. I am convinced the Cooperative Education Program will be successful because it will allow college-educated students to see and experience the benefits of living and working in Grand Island.As Mayor, I support the efforts of the Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce and Grow Grand Island, which are spearheading this effort.The Cooperative Education Program will start a recruitment pipeline that will help grow Grand Island’s economy and help provide our business community with highly motivated and highly skilled employees.”Roger G. Steele, Mayor