Are you looking for the career of your dreams? If so, Nebraska is the ideal place for you. Wages are growing rapidly. And we have tens of thousands of open jobs at any given time. To help people take these jobs, my team has started a number of initiatives. From the middle school years to career launches and transitions, we are connecting the next generation of Nebraskans to great opportunities.

In 2015, I worked with the Legislature to create the Developing Youth Talent Initiative (DYTI). During the last four years, this program has introduced more than 7,000 middle school students to great careers in manufacturing and information technology. This week, the Department of Economic Development and I announced that a new round of DYTI grants will go to Orthman Manufacturing of Lexington, Reinke Manufacturing of Deshler and Vistabeam Inventive Wireless of Gering. These new grants will raise awareness about these fields with 4,600 more students so they can pursue their interest further at the high school level.

From Lincoln to Grand Island to Scottsbluff, schools have established career academies to equip youths with skills such as welding and irrigation technology. We also have launched a new program through the Nebraska Department of Labor called Jobs for America’s Grads to aid young Nebraskans who have faced challenging circumstances to take the next step after high school.

The program’s goal is to give students who have faced challenging circumstances the skills for their next step using project-based curriculum and a focus on STEM fields. In its first year, the program successfully launched in three schools with 82 students. Of those, all 13 seniors graduated, and we are working to expand it in the coming school year.

Beyond high school, the state of Nebraska has teamed up with job creators to offer a variety of apprenticeships. During the past few years, we have worked to establish 125 registered apprenticeship programs, an increase of 44 percent since 2016. Registered apprenticeships help Nebraskans “earn while they learn” in fields ranging from manufacturing to telecommunications. This can provide a direct pathway to a great career. Earlier this year, we launched a new German-style apprenticeship program with the Industry Consortium for Advanced Technical Training. In February, CLAAS and Graepel, two German companies with operations in Omaha, became the first two high-tech manufacturers in Nebraska to officially sign on with ICATT and commit funds for the program.

Our efforts to help Nebraskans take advantage of great careers extend to our entire existing workforce through our re-employment and SNAP Next Step programs. Nebraska’s DOL provides re-employment services to any Nebraskan seeking their next career opportunity. These services range from creating a resume to job search coaching to gaining new skills. All Nebraskans drawing unemployment benefits participate in these services. We also have connected families on food stamps to re-employment services in Grand Island, Hastings, Columbus, Norfolk, Scottsbluff, Sidney, North Platte, and most recently Lexington. Through this effort, called SNAP Next Step, we have helped Nebraskans achieve higher incomes, more financial independence and less reliance on government assistance. As of April 2019, the average participant completing the program realized an increase in wages of more than $900 a month, or $11,000 a year.

pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov