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Growing Nebraska by Growing Our People

Growing Nebraska by Growing Our People

By Governor Pete Ricketts

August 16, 2022

Governor’s Official Photo here.

We are successfully developing Nebraska and creating jobs here in the good life. Nebraska had the lowest average unemployment rate in the country in 2020 and 2021, and we still do so far in 2022. In fact, we currently have the lowest unemployment rate in the history of the state at 1.9%. From Sunday August 14ethe state job site (NEworks.nebraska.gov) lists 51,835 available openings.

This abundance of jobs benefits Nebraska families. Earlier this month, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released its annual Kids Count Data Book containing information on child welfare in all 50 states. Nebraska is ranked #1 for child economic well-being. Makes sense. When there are plenty of jobs available, parents can easily find work to care for their children.

While our state’s historically low unemployment rate is ideal for Nebraskanians looking for their next career opportunity, it poses challenges for businesses and state agencies looking to hire great people. In this job market, employers must be creative in recruiting and retaining the talent they need to grow.

We’ve been working since 2015 to build a talent pool to connect Nebraska graduates to the high-paying jobs being created here in the good life. We begin our efforts on the 7the degree with the Youth Talent Development Initiative (DYTI), continuing with high school vocational academies, and then expanding into post-secondary education through our scholarship program and registered apprenticeships.


I worked with the Legislative Assembly to launch DYTI in 2015. DYTI offers competitive grants to for-profit companies, which partner with area schools to design innovative learning experiences that inspire 7e and 8e graders to explore careers in manufacturing, information technology, and other high-growth industries. Middle school is when students begin to gravitate toward a curriculum based on their experiences and relationships. Being exposed to high-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 in 66 Nebraska school districts. This month we announced our new DYTI grant recipients: MetalQuest in Hebron and 21st Century Equipment in Scottsbluff. These grants will bring DYTI to an additional 3,500 students in 29 school districts.

This is the second time MetalQuest has received a DYTI grant. It partnered with Sandy Creek and Lawrence Nelson Public Schools on a DYTI program in 2016. Prior to the program, only 39% of students said they were interested in a career in manufacturing. After the program, approximately 75% expressed interest in a career in manufacturing. Our results also showed that students are more likely to enroll in math, science, and technology courses as high schoolers after participating in DYTI in middle school. For example, Gering Public Schools saw enrollment in first- and second-year engineering courses increase by 25% in the 2021-2022 academic year, two years after Vistabeam partnered with the school on DYTI.

Career Academies / Recorded Learnings

CNH Industrial partners with Grand Island High School through the Career Pathways Institute. In 2017, CNH donated new manufacturing 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. In conjunction with Grand Island High School, CNH also offers a youth registered apprenticeship program for welders and industrial fabrication technicians. Student apprentices earn course credit while gaining hands-on experience at CNH on the fabrication shop.

In August 2021, CNH entered into a partnership with Central Community College to offer recorded apprenticeships for students in Welding Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Design Technology. These students earn while learning their trade and simultaneously earning credits toward a degree. This prevents them from going into debt to pay for their studies. Across Nebraska, registered apprenticeship programs grew 15% in 2021. There are now more than 3,900 apprentices in training.

Career scholarships

In 2020, the Legislature funded my proposal to invest in Nebraska Vocational Scholarships for students in our community colleges, state colleges, and university system. Last year, we successfully expanded the scholarship program to include private colleges. This will bring the total number of career scholarships to at least 2,110 by 2023. These scholarships enable young adults in Nebraska to take up great jobs in high-demand fields such as engineering and manufacturing.

We are 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 study 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 stay in northeast Nebraska after graduation.

We are seeing the fruits of our investments in workforce development. Nebraska has had record employment for 12 consecutive months. Manufacturing employment in Nebraska hit its highest level in more than 14 years. Our state also has the highest labor force participation rate in the country, at 70%. These are great signs that we are equipping Nebraskans with the education and skills they need to succeed in their careers. Going forward, we will continue to prioritize innovative programs that help connect Nebraska’s youth to great companies that create jobs throughout Nebraska.

If you have any questions about the state’s workforce development initiatives, please contact me at [email protected] or 402-471-2244.