Gov. Ricketts, state leaders unveil new jobs, $4,000 scholarships to meet workforce needs
LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts proposed new jobs and education initiatives Monday to develop and keep young talent in Nebraska and connect Nebraskans to high-paying jobs and educational opportunities as the need for skilled workers continues to grow. The announcement came Monday, Jan. 7, ahead of the legislative session set to start Wednesday, Jan. 9.
“Connecting Nebraskans to great job opportunities and helping our people develop the skills they need to take great jobs is critical to growing our state,” Ricketts said. “These new initiatives will help more Nebraskans find the pathway to a great career. I look forward to working with the Legislature on these measures as a part of the budget recommendation I will be making next week.”
If the state Legislature funds the new program, the Nebraska Talent Scholarships program would offer $4,000 in annual scholarships to college students at the University of Nebraska, state colleges and community colleges.
State leaders from Nebraska’s higher education institutions and private sector representatives were present during the announcement, including University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds. The Nebraska Talent Scholarships is one of the education initiatives that targets specific career areas where the state needs more talent. The proposed scholarship program would offer 250 $4,000 scholarships available to students along with 65 $2,000 scholarships to students who attend community colleges — a total cost of $2 million. Community colleges would have $260,000 in scholarships, which would double in the second year. The colleges would select target areas for the scholarships, based on local input.
The scholarships target students who seek professions in engineering, math, computer information systems and other STEM areas. Ricketts’ talent scholarships proposal will provide $1 million in scholarships in the first year and will increase the second year to $4 million annually. Those monies are included in the governor’s budget.
“I’m pleased that the governor recognizes there is a workforce crisis in Nebraska,” Bounds said. “Affordable, outstanding higher education for students and families is a critical part of the solution. Gov. Ricketts’ proposal is a step in the right direction.”
Greg Adams, executive director of the Nebraska Community College Association, echoed Bounds’ statement, stating people in education recognize the shortage and the proposal is an action step to address the problem.
“We know there is a shortage of skilled labor,” Adams said. “Developing a skilled workforce is the priority of Nebraska’s community colleges.”
Nebraska State College System Chancellor Paul Turman also shared that the scholarship initiative will boost state college graduates in areas of the workforce identified as high-need by state businesses.
“It also expands opportunities and increases affordability for our students to attend Chadron, Peru or Wayne State College,” Turman said. “The initiative connects students with business and industry during their college careers, resulting in an increased likelihood that these students will choose to enter the workforce in these businesses or elsewhere in rural Nebraska.”
A variety of talent scholarships are available based on the institution:
— University of Nebraska: Talent Scholarships creates 250 scholarships a year at the University of Nebraska available to students in the following programs: math, engineering, health care, computer information systems and all programs at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis.
— State colleges: Nebraska Talent Scholarships creates 250 scholarships a year at the state colleges available to students in the following programs: rangeland management, industrial technology, criminal justice and computer information systems.
— Community colleges: Nebraska Talent Scholarships creates 65 scholarships a year at the community colleges available to students in the following programs: the skilled trades and areas determined by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) as facing a worker shortage.
Ricketts is also proposing to expand the Developing Youth Talent Initiative (DYTI), which began four years ago to expose middle school students to careers in manufacturing and information technology. Since inception, DYTI has impacted over 7,000 students in 23 school districts. Close to $1 million in grants have been awarded to date with approximately two grants handed out annually. Through the expanded plan proposal, Rickets seeks to expand DYTI grants to Nebraska public schools from $250,000 to $1.5 million annually. Such increase will allow for up to 12 grants per year, instead of two grants, and aims to offer grants to students in every region, every year.
“The Developing Youth Talent Initiative will help close the talent gap in our industry by providing early exposure to technology and manufacturing concepts, while encouraging students to consider careers that utilize them,” said Derek Kowalski, a manager at Nucor Detailing Center in Norfolk.