Southeast Community College will receive nearly $4.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds distributed by the city of Lincoln to address workforce development needs of individuals and communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird announced six grant recipients totaling $12 million during a press conference March 10.
The College will use part of the funds to develop an office of work-based learning, whose purpose will be to create customized training for people who may be under-employed or not employed as a result of COVID-19. The training will allow those individuals to reskill or upskill in high-demand areas, said Dr. Paul Illich, SCC president.
"We specifically identified information technology, welding, manufacturing, and health sciences as those high-demand areas," Illich said. "The creation of a dedicated office is the first component.
"The second component is we're going to create dedicated training spaces and asymmetrical training. We're going to start with an information technology center that we've actually been designing. So this (funding) came at a perfect time as we're trying to recover from COVID-19. We want to make sure we have the capacity to allow for this training for those that may not need a full credential. Perhaps they just need a couple of weeks or a month or whatever it takes. We want to be able to position ourselves perfectly so we can partner with the city and industry partners to get the exact training they need."
In direct response to the negative individual and city-wide impacts of COVID-19, and in alignment with the 2020 Mayor's Economic Recovery Task Force Report, SCC will use the funds to construct and equip flexible and permanent lab spaces for reskilling, upskilling, apprenticeships, and internships in high-demand and high-wage industry sectors, including health sciences, manufacturing and welding, and information technology, and implement and coordinate customized reskilling/upskilling training and apprenticeship/internship opportunities via a new SCC Office of Work-based Learning.
Prior to the pandemic in 2020, the city of Lincoln was experiencing significant shortages of skilled workers in many industry sectors, Illich said, and these workforce gaps are projected to expand in the absence of robust interventions.
"Over the past five years, SCC has been pursuing several transformative initiatives to address this barrier to economic growth by expanding our capacity to produce a qualified skilled workforce and affordable access to higher education," he said.
Illich continued, "This new information technology center (to be built on the Lincoln Campus) is going to be a tremendous opportunity to directly address the skilled workforce shortage we have in that area. We're going to be able to do the same thing as part of this award in the health sciences, as well as welding and manufacturing. This will be an absolute game-changer as we recover from COVID-19 and move forward in the future. This is a tremendous opportunity for not just SCC and its industry partners, but for the city of Lincoln. Most importantly, those directly impacted by COVID. We're very excited to be a part of this."