“It’s kind of exciting to have a student visit Metro who doesn’t think college is an option for them, then they see one of these classrooms and say ‘this is exactly what I want to do and I can do it here at MCC,’” said Aubrey Baxter, Enrollment Specialist for the Trades at Metropolitan Community College.

Metro has three campuses with 16 different trades programs.

Baxter said the Construction Education Center is located on the Fort Omaha campus and offers training in construction, architectural design, civil engineering, plumbing, HVAC and electrical.

The South Omaha campus provides instruction in welding, precision machine, process operation, industrial and commercial trades. They also have an automotive program.

Metro’s Applied Technology Center is located off 104th and State Streets. Baxter explained this is where Metro trains students in transportation courses and utility line work.

“Students can get their CDL after six weeks there or attend a night program that takes nine weeks. Right now, there are job opportunities everywhere in CDL. But we also offer courses in auto collision and diesel too,” she said.

Right now, Baxter said the Construction Education Center is the most exciting thanks to a huge project the students are working on together.

“Our students are working together to build a fully functioning house out in our capstone lab. This isn’t a house they’re going to build and then tear down. Someone will actually live in it. I don’t know if you can get any more real-world, hands-on experience for the students than that,” explained Baxter.

She said the project is modeled to be a job site. Students will wear hard hats, boots and other safety gear. They will clock in and out.

“Through projects like these, we are doing our best to prepare them for when they go out into industry,” Baxter said.

Metro is all about jobs and Baxter said the trade programs are no different. She said Metro has advisory committees that build its programs.

“Most of our instructors have been in the industry 20-30 years. Many of them have retired but decided to come back to pass their knowledge on. This is great because they’ve seen and done everything and an share that with students,” said Baxter.

Even though she grew up around blue-collar workers, those types of jobs were never presented to Baxter as options for employment. Her generation, like many others, was told they needed to get a four-year degree.

The result of that advice? There’s now a huge gap and plenty of trades jobs that are going unfilled.

“For every five positions that are available (because people are retiring), we only have one person with the skills to fill it,” she said.

Baxter feels there will be problems soon if people don’t come to realize the value of these careers. And make no mistake, there’s plenty of money to be made in these fields too.

As Baxter explained, “I would say the average income for our students coming out of MCC is about 40k per year – and that’s the low end. When you’re graduating college with no debt because Metro is so affordable and you’re making 40k, that’s a good start.”

She said though students might be able to get a job in the trades before they finish their Associate’s degree, Metro specifically encourages people to stay with the program till they graduate.

“Once they have that degree, they’re able to move up in the company quickly. And some of these companies offer tuition and tool reimbursements as well as scholarships,” Baxter said.

Metro has a lot of non-traditional students and Baxter said there are those pursuing training in the trades because they couldn’t find a job they enjoyed.

For those interested in plumbing or electrical work, Metro offers apprenticeships where students work to prepare themselves for their journeyman’s test.

“Maybe they like to work with their hands. So they come here and find a career they can enjoy. There are so many job opportunities out there and the students are getting a great education here at MCC,” she said.

MCC offers meet and greets every few months with industry partners. Baxter said the best place to start is by checking the school’s website at mccneb.edu.

Nursing shortage

For those interested in helping people and making a difference in a slightly different way, nursing is a profession facing both national and local shortages.

Clarkson College is working on addressing that deficit by graduating 100-120 students per academic year.

“What makes our program attractive to students is that they can attend part-time or full-time. They can complete our program in as little as seven semesters,” said Dr. Aubray Orduna, Dean of Nursing at Clarkson.

Clarkson’s admissions staff goes to high schools and community colleges to recruit potential students.

“We have preview days for prospective students who may come here to find out about our programs,” said Orduna.

In the Baccalaureate program students start clinicals in their very first semester. And each semester after that they have a nursing theory course coupled with a clinical.

“Our students do 1125 clinical hours in total,” she said.

What are clinicals?

Orduna explained, “The students go into a health care facility and take care of patients. This could be acute care or long term care, in the clinic or out in the community at a community facility.”

In addition to students who take the more traditional path to nursing, there are definitely those individuals who decide to leave their current careers and pursue nursing. And Orduna said that’s also fairly common.

She said one of the biggest benefits of nursing is that there are always openings and many different areas you can work in. That includes administration, if a student were to obtain their master’s degree.

Dr. Marsha Cravens, Director of Undergraduate Nursing at Clarkson, said she always encourages anyone who is interested in a nursing career to shadow a nurse at whatever level is appropriate to them and see what it’s like.

“With theory courses, clinicals and board exams for licensure, these programs are rigorous,” she said.

Cravens said Clarkson offers a job fair once a year in March where all area hospitals, home health agencies, rehab facilities and long-term care facilities come and speak with their students about potential jobs.

“When students do their clinicals, many times they will establish relationships with practitioners and get offers during that process as well,” said Cravens.

Orduna is proud of Clarkson’s simulation lab where students can go and practice things they’re working on before they go to clinicals.

“They can practice on high fidelity mannequins that breathe and have a pulse. It’s helpful for the students to learn in a comfortable environment,” she said.

For her part, Cravens said it’s rewarding to see the students learn and grow in their knowledge, knowing they will be taking care of patients in the future.

For individuals interested in pursing a nursing career, the best place to begin is online at ClarksonCollege.edu.

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