Governor impressed with TCA students during campus visit

One of Nebraska’s most prominent politicians heard the hum of precision machines and hammering of nails fill the air at The Career Academy on Jan. 30.
Lincoln Public Schools students displayed their career and technical expertise to Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen. He watched career and technical education (CTE) students sharpen their skills in welding, precision machining, construction and health sciences classrooms. He joined representatives from LPS and Southeast Community College (SCC) on the 60-minute tour.
Pillen said he was impressed by the work happening on campus. LPS and SCC formed TCA as an academic partnership in 2015 for public, parochial and homeschool students. More than 700 high school juniors and seniors come to 8800 O St. for a wide variety of classes.
“This is so important to the future of our state,” Pillen told a group in the commons area. “There’s endless pathways with all of the programs here. It’s just incredible.”

TCA seniors Isabel and Sapphire guided Pillen during each stop of the tour. The Honor Roll students said they were thrilled to help shine a state-level spotlight on TCA’s community. They said their time at the facility had made a huge difference in their lives.
“The students here are not only wonderful people, but they’re good students,” Isabel said. “This is a great place to be.”
“We want to broadcast it to as many students as possible,” Sapphire said. “Everything is possible when you come here.”
TCA Director Joshua Jones said Isabel and Sapphire were prime examples of the positive stories being written each day in the building.
“They were just spectacular,” Jones said. “Isabel and Sapphire did such a great job today. It just speaks to the quality level of students that we have here. To me it’s awe-inspiring to see what all of these students do every day at TCA.”
Health sciences students Taytum, Naomi, Erika and Adreyona gave Pillen additional insight into the bright futures available through TCA programs. All four seniors have already earned their certified nursing assistant (CNA) degrees and are planning to become medical professionals. They smiled as Pillen praised their efforts.
“Connecting with every patient you work with is really important,” Pillen said. “That will go so far into helping people, and sometimes we forget that. I can see that all of you are going to do great things with your lives.”

Jones, Isabel and Sapphire provided Pillen with a wealth of information about TCA’s curriculum. Each pathway features a combination of entry-level college courses, field trips to local businesses and multiple hands-on learning activities.
Students visit many Lincoln-area companies each semester to learn how their trades are being implemented there. They speak with professionals about their daily experiences and the benefits of working in their specific jobs. Prospective internships and apprenticeships at local businesses are also available.
Jones said it was critical to provide real-world experiences for TCA students. For example, Sapphire and others in the welding pathway collect basic metal fabrication skills in their classrooms. They learn techniques such as plasma cutting, tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding and metal inert gas (MIG) welding. Graduates can then transfer these skills to jobs in Scottsbluff, South Sioux City and everywhere in between.
“We’re training these kids to be global citizens,” Jones said.
Sapphire said she was happy to get a head start in her chosen field at TCA. She is planning to study welding and automotive technology at Southeast Community College.
She will enter a job sector that has an optimistic future. A September 2023 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics said 42,600 people will become welders, cutters, solderers and brazers each year over the next decade. The median wage in May 2022 was $47,540, but Sapphire said it could be as high as $77 an hour for highly-technical tasks.
“I’d say it’s given me a start in life that four years ago I didn’t think was possible,” Sapphire said.

Isabel is planning to major in government and politics at Hope College in Holland, Mich. She said her time at TCA has inspired her to become an advocate for CTE workers in her career.
“Being here has put the narrative in my mind of where I want to go,” Isabel said.
In addition to offering dual-credit opportunities for students, Pillen learned TCA is also removing economic barriers. All TCA students receive free transportation to and from campus and free textbooks and classroom materials. They also earn LPS credits at no cost. Students receive a 50-percent discount on regular SCC tuition prices for dual-credit programs.
Jones said everyone at TCA valued the governor’s willingness to discover more about the people and programs inside the building.
“It’s extremely important when people who are in positions of influence see the value of what we’re doing here,” Jones said. “It was awesome to see how much he cared about the things he saw today and that he took the time to come visit us. I thanked him several times today for coming, because it’s really exciting that he wanted to be here and talk with our students.”
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Published: February 5, 2024, Updated: February 5, 2024

The Career Academy seniors Isabel and Sapphire smile with Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen during a campus tour on Jan. 30. They guided Pillen through welding, precision machining, construction and health sciences classrooms. Pillen said he was impressed with the facility and felt it was important for students to learn many skilled trades.