As I travel the state, ag producers, manufacturers and small business owners tell me that one of their greatest barriers to growing their operations is recruiting the right talent with the right skills. The center-pivot industry needs irrigation technicians. Manufacturers face a shortage of welders. IT companies are looking for a broader pool of developers and programmers.

To address these challenges, we must always be expanding educational opportunities for young Nebraskans and exposing them to the great career possibilities available to them right here in our state. Introducing our young people to these opportunities early on can help them make Nebraska their home as they look for a place to live, work and raise a family in the coming years.

To this end, I announced the creation of the Nebraska Developing Youth Talent Initiative (NDYTI) in my State of the State address earlier this year. This program will foster partnerships between private industry and public schools that will connect young Nebraskans in seventh and eighth grades to careers in the manufacturing and technology sectors. Through this initiative, the Nebraska Department of Economic Development is providing grants to two businesses per year in the upcoming school years. I recently announced that Flowserve Corporation of Hastings and Hollman Media LLC of Kearney received the first two grants.

Both companies are launching great programs in partnership with their local public school districts. Flowserve Corporation is the head of a group of businesses in the Hastings area working in collaboration with Hastings Public Schools and Central Community College. Through their partnership, they are expanding programming that will help create awareness about the kinds of jobs available in the manufacturing industry in the Hastings area and the skills necessary to take those jobs. With the help of the NDYTI grant, they will be able to reach middle school students with curriculum that includes basic instruction in welding, construction, transportation logistics and design and engineering.

In Kearney, Hollman Media LLC will expose more than 1,000 students to careers in IT annually through their partnership with Kearney Public Schools. In sixth grade, the program will allow students to use existing software to create simple programs of action. At the seventh-grade level, they will facilitate entrepreneurial problem-solving experiences through technology such as LEGO robotics and laser engravers. By the time they reach eighth grade, students will learn basic software development using applications such as the Android App Maker. Students can continue to pursue the interests they have developed through their middle school years in a related Kearney High School program.

Other schools are taking action, and starting their own programs to provide young Nebraskans with new opportunities and address local work force needs. For example, York High School, in conjunction with Reinke Manufacturing and Central Valley Ag, launched a new program that will allow students to earn an irrigation technician, agricultural chemical applicator or diversified agriculture certificate from the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture. All these programs are great examples of how we can help expand educational and career opportunities for the next generation of Nebraskans across our state.

Throughout my administration, I will continue to open up new opportunities for our young people. If you have questions or ideas of your own, please contact my office at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or by calling 402-471-2244. I look forward to hearing from you.

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