- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 22, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Plans for a new Lincoln career center hinge on ballots being mailed out Wednesday asking voters to approve a $153 million bond measure.

The measure is aimed primarily at providing new schools and additions and renovations at existing school buildings. But it would direct $12.5 million for the district’s half of the proposed Capitol Career Center.

The Lancaster County election commissioner’s office will mail ballots Wednesday, and voters must have them back by Feb. 11, the Lincoln Journal Star said (http://bit.ly/1dvj5x0 ).

The career center would be a joint project of Lincoln Public Schools and Southeast Community College. The two-story building would sit on the southwest corner of the college campus on the east side of Lincoln.

The center would provide students with hands-on experience in various manufacturing and technical fields. But John Neal, assistant to the district superintendent, said the center would not be arranged as a job-training site. He said it would provide exposure and hands-on experience in careers of the students’ choice.

The center is modeled after the East Valley Institute of Technology in Mesa, Ariz., which serves 10 school districts and offers credits in 35 occupation-specific programs.

Richard Katt, director of career education for the Nebraska Department of Education, said that under the Lincoln program, the college would offer dual credit that students could use for specific certification, associate or four-year degrees.

The Millard and Grand Island school districts have similar programs, Katt said, and Omaha Public Schools has a construction trades program and the Papillion-La Vista district has one for health sciences.

Nick Cusick, president of Bison Inc., has been pushing the idea of a local career center for some time because of the need for employees skilled in welding and other trades.

He’d visited the Arizona center, he said.

“I guess what was really impressive was how the kids are really there because they want to be there. It wasn’t a place kids were sent,” Cusick said. “It’s not exclusively to train welders or machine operators or practical nurses or those trades … I think this is all about keeping kids on the educational bus as long as it’s appropriate for them.”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com