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Office of Governor Pete Ricketts

Gov. Ricketts Announces 2016 Nebraska Developing Youth Talent Initiative Grant Awards

Media Contacts:

Taylor Gage, Governor’s Office, 402-471-1970

Kate Ellingson, Economic Development, 402-471-3749



Hebron and Omaha-based companies will use grants to expose students to careers in IT, manufacturing.


Photos here. Audio here.


LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts announced MetalQuest of Hebron and Distefano Technology & Mfg. (Distefano) of Omaha as the 2016 grant recipients for the Nebraska Developing Youth Talent Initiative (DYTI), a program that connects young Nebraskans to careers in the manufacturing and technology sectors.  DYTI was proposed by the Governor in January 2015 and approved by the Legislature to foster partnerships between private industry and public schools that promote engagement in hands-on career exploration and relevant workplace learning for students in 7th and 8th grades.


“Congratulations to MetalQuest and Distefano on receiving the 2016 grants to support their efforts to expose young Nebraskans to careers in manufacturing and IT,” said Governor Ricketts. “Public-private partnerships like these are setting the bar when it comes to working with their communities and schools to connect youth with career paths with good-paying jobs.  These efforts are helping build the 21st-century workforce Nebraska’s industries and companies need to remain competitive in a global economy.”


At a press conference today, Governor Ricketts congratulated MetalQuest and Distefano on applications that demonstrated strong collaboration with area schools in creating plans to actively address workforce needs of industries in south central Nebraska and the greater Omaha metropolitan area.  Industry needs identified and addressed in the applications included bulking up in skilled labor via creation of a manufacturing talent pipeline, focusing on future job growth with an emphasis on manufacturing, working closely with schools to offer curriculum tailored to industry needs, industry education outreach, and promotion, mentoring and financial support among others.


“As the state’s second largest industry, we have an opportunity, not only to fill the workforce needs of our manufacturers, but to help them continue creating good-paying jobs and to connect them with quality, highly-skilled employees,” said Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) Director Courtney Dentlinger.   “This program is helping us increase awareness among our younger students about the many excellent careers that exist for them.” 


“MetalQuest is thrilled to be the recipient of a Nebraska Developing Youth Talent grant.  We are fortunate to be a part of the Manufacturing Career Pathway Program at South Central Nebraska Unified School District,” said Scott Volk, Vice President of MetalQuest.  “This grant will have a direct impact, exposing area students in grades 6-12 to exciting and challenging manufacturing careers.  Students will now be able to get real life experience through project-based learning strategies, building upon the career pathway concept currently in development.  We are very excited to be a part of this program, and appreciate the assistance in helping develop the manufacturing talent so desperately needed.”


“On behalf of Distefano Technology & Mfg., Dream it Do it, the Nebraska Advance Manufacturing Coalition, Omaha Public Schools, and a group of business leaders dedicated to creating awareness in manufacturing, I would like to thank the Governor for awarding us the Nebraska Developing Youth Talent Initiative grant,” said Brian Turner, Vice President and General Manager of Distefano.  “These funds will assist us in furthering the work of creating an awareness of careers in manufacturing for our youth.  We are excited to get started.”


About the DYTI Grant Recipients


MetalQuest in Hebron is working with the South Central Unified School District to support and offer the Career Pathway Program with an emphasis in manufacturing to students, grades 6-12.  Middle school grades 6-8 will be offered exploratory courses in manufacturing under the supervision of a college-level instructor who is hired by the District and Central Community College working with MetalQuest and other business partners.  This will lead students who choose a manufacturing career path into project development at the 9th and 10th grade level.


Distefano in Omaha as part of an area consortium of manufacturers will establish the Metro Area Mobile Manufacturing Expo (M3E), a traveling mobile lab for Omaha Public Schools (OPS) middle schools.  M3E industry leaders (including Distefano and industry volunteers engaged with “Dream It Do It”) collaborated with Omaha Public Schools and the OPS Career Center to draft the M3E education plan.  This fall, industry partners will deliver nine mobile expo experiences, such as introductions to 3D design and printing, automation, welding, robotics, and related careers to OPS middle schools.  In addition, the plan is to host an additional three mobile expo experiences at community events the summer of 2017, impacting 2,700 students in year one.


About the Nebraska Developing Youth Talent Initiative


Last year, the Governor proposed DYTI to respond to rapid innovations in the manufacturing and information technology sectors.  Next generation workers in these industries require advanced skill sets and knowledge to help companies compete in the global economy.  Meeting workforce demands will continue to require innovative approaches to develop a youth talent pipeline, and this initiative has been a step toward laying the groundwork for that pipeline.


“The Nebraska Developing Youth Talent Initiative is a great way for our state to connect young people with potential career options,” said Governor Pete Ricketts.  “Expanding educational opportunities and creating more and better paying jobs are two of my administration’s top priorities.  This initiative is opening up horizons for young Nebraskans looking for a career track with good-paying jobs.”


“The Nebraska Developing Youth Talent Initiative is challenging industry and education partners to come up with innovative, creative ways to engage students early on in selecting careers that both satisfy their future aspirations and help fill workforce needs for highly-skilled employees,” said DED Director Dentlinger.  “As our 21st-century economy continues to rapidly shift and grow, DYTI can evolve and grow along with it to ensure that our businesses can fill the demand for employees whose skills meet the exacting demands of work as it exists at any given time.”


Through this initiative, DED is providing up to $125,000 financial assistance each to MetalQuest and Distefano for the 2016-2017 school year.  The Governor and DED previously awarded financial assistance to Flowserve in Hastings, and Hollman Media, LLC, of Kearney for the 2015-2016 school year.


How Business Qualify for the Nebraska Developing Youth Talent Initiative


Businesses that qualify for DYTI are those in the manufacturing sector or businesses in need of high-skill information technology professionals.  At least one business selected for a grant must be in a county with a population less than 100,000.  Grants through DYTI are provided to private sector for-profit entities.  Businesses are selected by independent scoring by a multiple agency committee with recommendations shared with the Governor for final approval.


DYTI grant recipients partner with schools to engage students to participate in hands-on career exploration and relevant workplace learning opportunities.  The programs reach students beginning in the seventh and eighth grades and must demonstrate sustainability and measurable impact.  Interest and participation in the program by students may be initial metrics, but measures may also include tracking of course-taking patterns through high school, possible work experiences provided by businesses after initial exposure, and tracking of post-secondary plans.