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For the 15th year, our early December column in The Telegram will focus on workforce development. This remains a key need for Chamber members and our community at-large. More than 600 open jobs were listed in Columbus this week … and that’s certainly not the full picture of potential careers that could be created here. Kara Asmus is the coordinator of the Drive for Five talent initiative and here’s just some of what she’s been working on:

Talent attraction and workforce development has continued to be a top priority at the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce this year. The purpose of the Drive for Five is to provide skilled employees to our supporting partners, filling the more than 600 available jobs. We do this by recruiting skilled talent; providing educational programs to students; and offering training opportunities to our current employees, making them more effective and satisfied in their roles.

Here is a snapshot of some measurable outcomes in the past 11 months of work:

On 22 recruiting trips, 1,020 job seekers heard about the opportunities in Columbus

288 resumes have been received and distributed to the Drive for Five partners

46 interns participated in 2 networking events

50 visiting college students toured local businesses

We hosted a job fair that brought 164 job seekers, 22 percent of them from outside of Columbus

At least 320 students have been informed about STEM jobs by the Dream It. Do It. Dream Team

197 students learned how to create a resume and interview for a job

400 first graders learned about on-the-job equipment at Vehicle Day

351 students learned how to balance their household budget

79 professionals improved their skills through supervisor training

150 high school students toured our manufacturing businesses

Nearly 4,000 of Columbus’ alumni have been invited to move back home

Targeted marketing has been driven to areas where large plants are closing and workers have been displaced, resulting in tens of thousands in Alabama, Ohio, Kansas, New York, Illinois, Missouri, and Montana learning about opportunities in our area. Hundreds have clicked through to view our job postings

Thanks to Kara for sharing this update. I think it’s clear that she is getting a lot accomplished and I would highlight that top number: More than 1,000 people heard directly, in-person, about opportunities for a career in Columbus. That’s pretty impressive direct impact and it took a lot of Kara’s effort to make it happen.

As you see, much of that work is happening in and with local schools. That collaboration between schools and businesses/community has been truly unique to Columbus. We should all be awfully proud to see that happening here.

Of course, all that work only happens with the collaboration of lots of partners. Speaking of partners, here is the list of all the businesses and organizations that contribute financially to this work: Columbus Public Schools; Lakeview Community Schools; Behlen Mfg. Co.; BD Medical Systems; BD Pharmaceutical Systems; Cargill Meat Solutions; Cargill Protein; Loup Power District; Pillen Family Farms; Platte County Board of Supervisors; ADM; City of Columbus; Columbus Community Hospital; Pinnacle Bank; Preferred Sands of Genoa; ARL Credit Services; Associated Staffing; Berkshire Hathaway Real Estate; Black Hills Energy; CAMACO; Central Confinement Service; Columbus Hydraulics; Columbus United Federal Credit Union; Cornhusker Public Power District; Don and Kathy Dreesen; Duo-Lift Manufacturing Company/Busch Equipment; FLEXcon Company; MIBA Industrial Bearings; Samson, LLC/Ramada Columbus; and Valmont.

To learn how you can become a supporter of the Drive for Five, contact Kara at

This is critical work, to be sure, and the Chamber is proud to say our business community, our schools, and our community as a whole are truly leading the way for Nebraska.

K.C. Belitz is the president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce.

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