Rethinking Higher Education


Thousands of students have set foot on college campuses this school year to prepare for their future careers. Many recent graduates are pursuing another potentially lucrative path, skilled-trade education. Koch companies have joined the growing number of encouraging voices to speak up about the benefits of skilled trades.

“All students have their own strengths & talents. It’s just a matter of learning how to turn those into a career.”

Meredith Olson // Vice President of Public Affairs // Koch Industries

“Earning a bachelor’s degree is great for some fields, but it’s not the answer for everyone,” said Meredith Olson, vice president of public affairs at Koch Industries. “All students have their own strengths and talents. It’s just a matter of learning how to turn those into a career. There is such a need for skilled trades. Anyone who is motivated to apply themselves will likely have a good opportunity to get a high-paying job in a very short amount of time.”

“Skilled trades are the backbone of our country.”

Koch companies in Nebraska are investing in the cause. The businesses recently agreed to a $200,000 four-year sponsorship of the Lincoln Career Academy (TCA).

“TCA is a joint venture between Lincoln Public Schools and Southeast Community College. It’s a way for high school students to gain experience in high-skill, high-demand jobs,” said Olson. “This money will help with equipment purchases and opportunities for students to get out of the classroom and witness skilled-trade jobs firsthand.”

The academy offers courses in a variety of career paths, ranging from precision machining and engineering to nursing and culinary arts. In addition to hands-on training and job shadowing, students can gain access to trade competitions through SkillsUSA. With more than 350,000 student members, SkillsUSA is one of the largest youth-enablement organizations in the United States. Partnering with the mikeroweWORKS Foundation in June 2016, Koch donated 100 travel scholarships for students from TCA and other schools across America to compete at the SkillsUSA Championships in Louisville, Kentucky.

“The SkillsUSA competition gives us some hope that the efforts of companies like Koch are successfully helping to close the skills gap,” said Olson. “Skilled trades are the backbone of our country. It’s good to see more students recognizing their talents in these fields and pursuing their dreams. When you’re making a living doing something you love, and helping countless other people, that’s hard to beat.”

  • Information Technology
  • Agriculture/Bioscience
  • Food Science
  • Health Sciences
  • Culinary Arts
  • Precision Machining
  • K-12 Education
  • Early Childhood
  • Construction
  • Welding
  • Engineering
  • Business

The SkillsUSA Championships attracted more than 6,000 student competitors.

Education In Action

Watch how these Nebraska students put their hands-on learning to work at the SkillsUSA national competition.