Are you looking for the career of your dreams? If so, Nebraska is the ideal place for you. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. We have the second-highest labor force participation rate among all states. Wages are growing rapidly. And we have tens of thousands of open jobs at any given time.
To help people take these jobs, my team has started a number of initiatives. From the middle school years to career launches and transitions, we are connecting the next generation of Nebraskans to the great opportunities awaiting them here in the Good Life.
In 2015, I worked with the Legislature to create the Developing Youth Talent Initiative (DYTI). Over the last four years, this program has introduced over 7,000 middle school students to great careers in manufacturing and information technology. This week, the Department of Economic Development and I announced that a new round of DYTI grants will go to Orthman Manufacturing of Lexington, Reinke Manufacturing of Deshler, and Vistabeam Inventive Wireless of Gering. These new grants will raise awareness about these fields with 4,600 more students, so they can pursue their interest further at the high school level.
From Lincoln to Grand Island to Scottsbluff, schools have established career academies to equip young Nebraskans with skills ranging from welding to irrigation technology. To build on these opportunities, we have launched a new program through the Nebraska Department of Labor (DOL) called Jobs for America’s Grads (JAG). JAG is designed to aid young Nebraskans who have faced challenging circumstances to take that next step in life after high school, whether it’s the road to college or a great career. The program’s goal is to give these students the skills they need for their next step. It uses project-based curriculum built with student input and a focus on STEM fields. In its first year, the program successfully launched in three schools with 82 students. Of those, all 13 seniors graduated, and we are working to expand it in the coming school year.
Beyond high school, the State of Nebraska has teamed up with job creators to offer a variety of apprenticeships. Over the past few years, we have worked to establish 125 registered apprenticeship programs, an increase of 44 percent since 2016. Registered apprenticeships help Nebraskans “earn while they learn” in fields ranging from manufacturing to telecommunications. This can provide a direct pathway to a great career. Earlier this year, we launched a new German-style apprenticeship program with the Industry Consortium for Advanced Technical Training (ICATT). In February, CLAAS and Graepel, two German companies with North American operations based in Omaha, became the first two high-tech manufacturers in Nebraska to officially sign on with ICATT and commit funds for the program.
Our efforts to help Nebraskans take advantage of great careers extend to our entire existing workforce through our reemployment and SNAP Next Step programs. Nebraska’s DOL provides reemployment services to any Nebraskan seeking their next career opportunity. These services range from creating a resume to job search coaching to gaining new skills. All Nebraskans drawing unemployment benefits participate in these services. We have also connected families on food stamps to reemployment services in Grand Island, Hastings, Columbus, Norfolk, Scottsbluff, Sidney, North Platte, and most recently Lexington. Through this effort, called SNAP Next Step, we have helped Nebraskans achieve higher incomes, more financial independence, and less reliance on government assistance. As of April 2019, the average participant completing the program realized an increase in wages of more than $900 a month, or $11,000 a year.
These are just a few examples of the work happening across the state to connect people with great opportunities and the career of their dreams. We will keep pushing to expand initiatives that will help even more young people enjoy the Good Life as the best place in the world to live, work, and raise a family. If you have questions about this subject or any other, I hope you will email me at email@example.com or call 402-471-2244.
Pete Ricketts is the governor of Nebraska.