About 80 employers and educators gathered at the Midtown Event Center on Tuesday to discuss the future of the Growing Together initiative.
State Senator Mike Flood, who helped lead the Growing Together initiative, kicked off the Growing Together Workforce Summit with updates on the program.
“Today, we basically educate employers about the Brighter Futures program,” Flood said.
One of the main updates of the Growing Together initiative concerns new student accommodation.
According to Flood, some Wayne State College students will be required to live in new housing in downtown Norfolk from 2023.
“The idea is that you have 75 university seniors graduating from four years, living in downtown Norfolk around each other and experiencing community,” Flood said, “and, in same time, increasing density in our downtown core.”
This upcoming accommodation is part of a collaboration between the Growing Together initiative and a new program at Wayne State College – the Growing Together Careers Scholars program.
According to Angie Stenger, executive director of Northeast Nebraska Growing Together, 75 students are part of this WSC program. About 45 of them are freshmen while 30 are sophomores at WSC.
The 30 sophomores will be the first group to live in student accommodation when they enter their final year in 2023. The rest of the 75 students will be added later, Stenger said.
“Then we’ll put out a new RFP because that’s going to support 30 of them, but they’ll need 15 more places for next year,” Stenger said.
According to Stenger, students will not have to pay to live in the new housing. Their housing and tuition costs will be covered with a $24,000 grant from the Growing Together initiative.
“And they’re going to make money because their internships are paid internships,” Stenger said.
Stenger said the new housing will be located adjacent to First Street and Braasch Avenue, with the groundbreaking ceremony taking place next Wednesday.
The Geary family, owners of DEG Enterprises and DACO Construction, will build the new student accommodation. WSC will then lease the building to them, Stenger said.
Under the new Wayne State program, high school students who want to stay in northeast Nebraska are recruited. Students will then follow the program throughout their four years of study at Wayne State College, where they will participate in career preparation opportunities.
Starting in their final year, students will then be required to begin a paid school-year apprenticeship with a local employer. During this time, students will work up to 30 hours per week in a hands-on learning environment.
“We’re working hard to try to find places and internships so these students are convinced to stay here,” Stenger said.