The Role of Education in Shaping our Future

Our recent articles have been focused on two key themes – workforce and community- with the goal of growing businesses and recruiting new ones. Few would disagree that these represent key elements in defining our community’s future.  Since economic development is joined at the hip with workforce then it must also be directly tied to our educational system.  Schooling at all levels is the means by which students gain the knowledge, critical thinking, and communication skills necessary for survival in today’s world. 

We’ve all heard the statistics telling us that Wyoming is are suffering from “brain drain”, losing our best and brightest graduates to other places.  A current estimate indicates that 57% of Wyoming graduates leave the state. While it is startling number, we have to see it for all it represents. One negative perception would focus on the immense cost of educating students for the benefit of other states and the question, “Why should we train workforce for others?”  On a purely cash on cash return on investment, it’s doesn’t seem a good model.  

However, in another view, we would recognize that the world desperately needs the kind of students that we raise in our community and in Wyoming.  Our 57% matters in more ways than simply as a workforce.  

It should be obvious that a critical attribute to Cody’s future success is our own Northwest College.   Like the other six locations in Wyoming with community colleges, Park County has greatly benefitted from NWC’s presence.  Community colleges provide a dynamic, locally focused means to empower local learners with better skill sets and more rewarding careers.  By definition, community colleges provide training to address local workforce needs in addition to their role as an intermediate step toward a baccalaureate degree. Our Northwest College offers a wide array of certificate programs and two-year degree programs designed to advance skill sets for learners.

Across American and more recently in our state legislature, a heightened focus has been placed on the importance of vocational education.  It would seem that during the dot com era, importance of the trades in our economy took a back seat. It was even stated in many public forums that, “In order to succeed in the future, students must have a college degree.”  That statement is only partially true. To be correct, it should be phrased, “In order to succeed, students will need some type of post-secondary education.”  That would of course, include certificate programs and two-year degrees.

And community colleges hold the key!

So, what steps can we as community members take to insure the best education for our kids, build a competent and consistent workforce and also do right by our community and our state?     Three things come to mind:

Get Engaged with your Local Community College

How many of you have been on the Northwest College campus recently?  Have you attended a meeting in the new Yellowstone Building? Listened to a visiting lecturer? Seen the law enforcement or the advanced nursing laboratories?  Have you ever watched the Trapper basketball, volleyball or soccer programs in action? Or attended one of the many phenomenal music concerts of the choral and band groups? If your answer is no, you are really missing out on the level of activity on campus.   

Northwest hosts amazing activities on a regular basis which invite public participation.  Check out their website at to see what’s happening.   Then engage!

Consider Ways That Northwest College Can Help You or Your Business

Again, Northwest holds some well-kept secrets from many of us.  One is the number of students in our high school who participate in concurrent enrollment programs.  In short, these students are taking college level classes -for credit- in the high school. In a recent annual report, Northwest stated that 187 students were concurrently enrolled in college classes while in high school.   

Another little-known program is the Center for Training and Development.  The center is the facilitator for trainings that directly impact workers and their skills.  Through their engagement with industry, the Center designs programs to aid companies in developing needed skill sets.  Through the years, programs have been established in everything from computer sciences to barista training. Companies with a specific training request can receive help in the development of specialized training.   A good example of this type of collaboration is the pilot training program. Northwest, in partnership with Choice Aviation, offers an Associate’s Degree in Aeronautics. Not every program needs to end with a Degree.  Programs offering completion certificates are more common.

Northwest has also impacted local workforce by engaging with local employers, for example, Cody Regional Health, through their Allied Health program.   Through this program, workers at all levels with the medical field can receive training for the various stages. Students in the Allied Health program can take a full course load or just a few classes while gainfully employed.  Classes are offered in both Powell and in Cody.  

So, all of you businesses, consider how a similar program could be developed in your industry.  How could your employee’s skills be enhanced or an employee pool grown through a similar collaborative effort? 

Support their Need to Improve Infrastructure

Community Colleges have infrastructure needs which are critical to their success.  The local level of support strongly influences the funding body, as does the local commitment to fund the project.  NWC is developing long term plans to revamp several key buildings on campus. Not from a wish list, but rather a must-do list. Do yourself a favor and visit the campus – take a look around and see for yourself the need.  Then get behind their efforts.  

We should as the 

While it is easy to stand back and say, “My kids don’t go there so I don’t need to be involved.”, the reality is that the success of the college provides direct benefits to each of us.  Remember our future is pinned to the success of our educational system. In the words of Jack Welch, “Control your own destiny or someone else will.”    

Don’t be a bystander, learn first-hand how you can help.

Education Leads to Quality Jobs!

Cody Regional Health has an amazing partnership with Northwest College.  This partnership has allowed our health system to better prepare our workforce and in turn offer students employment directly after graduation.  

As our organization continues to grow, they are always looking for talent who are ready to hit the ground running.  Nursing students complete their preceptorships and clinical at CRH where they can work one on one with the team. This gives staff a chance to see if they are ready to integrate with our team before they graduate as a professional in giving direct patient care.  

There is a major gap in Allied Health, with many openings but not enough people graduating to fill these positions.  The School of Nursing and the Allied Health programs at Northwest College are vital to Cody Regional Health.  Currently, every LPN on our Acute Care and Critical Care units are graduates of the NWC program. We recently hired three RN’s who graduated from the NWC program.  

 We’re always looking for good talent.  Without the partnership with NWC, we’d struggle to fill many spots.