By: Editorial Staff NEBRASKA'S LARGEST DAILY newspaper is co-sponsoring a program to help graduating high school students enter and excel in the local workforce. Omaha Work Keys is a three-year project of the Omaha World-Herald, Omaha Public Schools and American College Testing. All three are partners in Omaha 2000, a community education initiative whose steering committee is chaired by World-Herald president and CEO John Gottschalk. A minimum of 25 businesses will be asked to participate in job-profiling activities to determine what skills students need to qualify for jobs. Once defined, they will be communicated to educators, who then will tailor curricula in the hope that students will possess these skills upon graduation. Two thousand high school students will be assessed to find out whether they meet the requirements. Organizers want to increase by 50% in three years the number of graduates prepared for successful entry into the world of work. "A high school diploma must come to mean something besides the fact that a youngster attended classes for a prescribed period of time," Gottschalk said in announcing the program. "The Work Keys approach shifts the focus to the skills acquired rather than the courses taken." U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley called Work Keys "an excellent example of what can happen when business people and educators in our local communities work together to address our national education goals." Omaha World-Herald Foundation is chief sponsor of the project, which has a projected budget of $400,000. The University of Nebraska, Metropolitan Community College and Nebraska Department of Education will provide educational support.