There is a need for a more comprehensive way to link businesses, students, programs, and scholarships in a cohesive manner.
As we continue to refine our mission of building a prosperous heartland for Nebraska and western Iowa, we acknowledge that the traditional university and community college scholarships we’ve awarded have provided thousands of individuals and families with opportunities they may not have otherwise realized. We’re honored by this important work, but in looking at where we’re headed as a region, we recognize another great need that needs immediate attention.
Heartland businesses are experiencing a shortage of skilled workers capable of filling job openings. With roughly 50,000 open positions across the heartland today, businesses are having to outsource various positions to other states to fulfill their staffing demands creating limits on business expansion throughout the region and inhibiting new business from considering relocation to our area.
For several years, we have been refocusing our community college scholarships on training programs which require an investment of two years or less dedicated skill development from the student. With a great demand for workers in these various trades, starting salaries and advancement potential is significantly above minimums. Additionally, these workers are offered better benefit packages and have multiple channels for career advancement.
We are blessed with a network of strong community colleges and other skill training programs. The challenge for each program is their ability to understand the business demand curve for specific programs and navigate the engagement of schools, students, and their families as they try to understand all of the career opportunities. There is a need for a more comprehensive way to link businesses, students, programs, and scholarships in a cohesive manner.
Nebraska Has a population of
Total annual workforce demand in Nebraska is 52,000 workers.
The Challenge is This…
Traditionally, high schools have been emphasizing college preparation with vocational or job skills training as less of a priority. There are middle and secondary schools across our heartland which are recognizing the needs and investing more resources in building career and job skills counseling programs. However, these programs tend to connect with a limited number of businesses in their community, connect with one or maybe two (depending on the school geography) community colleges in the heartland and have little data to understand the best current career opportunities in the heartland available to students.
The community college network across the heartland offers excellent workforce skill training necessary for many open positions. Each community college is focused on their region of the state and has a connection to select businesses within those regions. Their capacity and program planning are focused on the demands in their respective areas without considering the state as a whole. Additionally, community colleges are competing somewhat with one another for students and do not have a proven statewide method of planning or collecting the data driving demand for their programs with businesses across the entire heartland.
We are focused on bridging the gap and working together to improve these processes and fulfill the workforce deficit in the heartland. By cultivating relationships between businesses and community college career training programs across Nebraska and western Iowa, we can open the lines of communication and collect the data necessary to understand the problem on a holistic level. We have already begun this process by showing our commitment to the community colleges in the region with the award of a $500,000 challenge grant.
To date, no entity has been focused on both sides of understanding and closing the gaps to drive data and information across all of Nebraska and western Iowa. After being confronted with the facts and the reality of the forecast we asked ourselves, who better to tackle this new challenge than Aksarben? We have the resources, the reach, and the proven track record of tackling statewide issues to bridge the gaps. Together, with our partners, we will pilot new programs with the goal of significantly increasing the output of students graduating with degrees and certificates in specific career areas needed in the region while focusing on post-graduate retention of this top talent.