Growing Nebraska by Developing Our People
By Governor Pete Ricketts
August 16, 2022
Governor’s official photo here.
We’re successfully growing Nebraska and creating jobs here in the Good Life. Nebraska had the nation’s lowest average unemployment rate in 2020 and 2021, and we do again so far in 2022. In fact, we currently have the lowest unemployment rate in state history at 1.9%. As of Sunday, August 14ththe State’s job website (NEworks.nebraska.gov) listed 51,835 available openings.
This abundance of jobs benefits Nebraska’s families. Earlier this month, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released their annual Kids Count Data Book with information on child welfare in all 50 states. Nebraska ranked # 1 for children’s economic wellbeing. That makes sense. When there are plenty of jobs available, parents can readily find work to take care of their kids.
While our state’s historically low unemployment rate is great for Nebraskans looking for their next career opportunity, it poses challenges for businesses and State agencies looking to hire great people. In this labor market, employers must be creative to recruit and retain the talent they need to grow.
We’ve been working since 2015 to create a talent pipeline to connect Nebraska’s graduates with the great-paying jobs being created here in the Good Life. We’re beginning our efforts as early as 7th grade with the Developing Youth Talent Initiative (DYTI), continuing them with high school career academies, and then extending them to post-secondary education through our Career Scholarship program and Registered Apprenticeships.
I worked with the Legislature to launch DYTI in 2015. DYTI provides competitive grants to for-profit companies, who partner with area schools to design innovative learning experiences that inspire 7th and 8th graders to explore careers in manufacturing, information technology, and other high-growth industries. Middle school is the time when students begin to gravitate toward a course of study based on their experiences and relationships. Gaining exposure to great-paying, in-demand careers at this age greatly increases the likelihood that students will pursue them.
Since its inception, DYTI grants have reached 24,500 students across 66 Nebraska school districts. This month, we announced our newest DYTI grant recipients: MetalQuest in Hebron and 21st Century Equipment in Scottsbluff. These grants will bring DYTI to 3,500 additional students in 29 school districts.
This is MetalQuest’s second time receiving a DYTI grant. It partnered with Sandy Creek and Lawrence Nelson Public Schools on a DYTI program in 2016. Before the program, only 39% of students reported being interested in a career in manufacturing. After the program, around 75% expressed interest in a manufacturing career. Our results have also shown that students are more likely to enroll in math, science, and technical coursework as high school freshmen after having taken part in DYTI during middle school. For example, Gering Public Schools saw its freshman and sophomore engineering course enrollments increase by 25% in the 2021-2022 academic year, two years after Vistabeam partnered with the school on DYTI.
Career Academies / Registered Apprenticeships
CNH Industrial partners with Grand Island High School through the Career Pathways Institute. In 2017, CNH donated new fabrication equipment to the school for students to use in learning labs. The equipment is very similar to what CNH uses in its actual manufacturing process. Working with Grand Island High School, CNH also offers a Youth Registered Apprenticeship program for welders and industrial manufacturing technicians. Student apprentices earn course credit while gaining hands-on experience at CNH on the manufacturing floor.
In August 2021, CNH entered into a partnership with Central Community College to offer registered apprenticeships for students in welding technology and advanced manufacturing design technology. These students earn while they learn their trade, and simultaneously gain credit toward a degree. This helps them avoid taking out debt to pay for school. Across Nebraska, registered apprenticeship programs increased 15% in 2021. There are now over 3,900 apprentices in training.
In 2020, the Legislature funded my proposal to invest in Nebraska Career Scholarships for students at our community colleges, state colleges, and University system. Last year, we successfully expanded the Career Scholarship program to add private colleges to the program. This will bring the total number of career scholarships to at least 2,110 by 2023. These scholarships are equipping Nebraska’s young adults to take great jobs in high-demand fields such as engineering and manufacturing.
We’re also seeing innovative uses of these scholarships. Wayne State College and the City of Norfolk have partnered to use them as part of the Growing Together Career Scholars Program. Students selected for the program spend their first three years of college engaging with Norfolk business partners through site visits, job shadowing, and mentorships. In their senior year, students move to downtown Norfolk where they earn credit while working for a local business. The program is a great way to help students develop relationships within the community so they remain in Northeast Nebraska after graduation.
We’re seeing the fruits of our investments in workforce development. Nebraska has experienced record-high employment for 12 consecutive months. Manufacturing employment in Nebraska has reached its highest point in over 14 years. Our state also has the top labor force participation rate in the country at 70%. These are great signs that we’re equipping Nebraskans with the education and skills they need to have career success. Going forward, we’ll continue to prioritize innovative programs that help connect Nebraska’s youth with the great companies creating jobs across Nebraska.
If you have questions about the State’s workforce development initiatives, please contact me at [email protected] or 402-471-2244.