By Governor Pete Ricketts
November 26, 2018
Official photo here.
Nebraska’s economic story over the last few years has been quite remarkable. For two years, we have had the most new investments per capita of any state in the nation. We achieved three years of over 1 million nonfarm jobs in the state for the first time ever. We have consistently seen low unemployment across the state, ranking fifth nationally for the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. We have seen the third highest wage growth among all states since 2014. A recent study showed Nebraska had the fastest job growth of durable goods production in our region over the last year. And every month, there are tens of thousands of open jobs available.
All of this translates to great news for Nebraska families. With so many open jobs, we have been looking for new ways to help more Nebraskans take their careers to the next level by connecting Nebraskans with better opportunities. In an ever-changing economy, we have to look for new ways to develop our people. In Nebraska, some areas with terrific opportunities include information technology, manufacturing, and construction management among many others. Each of these takes some level of expertise, but there are many opportunities to acquire these skills. At the State of Nebraska, we are helping hardworking Nebraskans connect to these great opportunities through innovative programs we have launched over the last few years. Here are a few of the ways we are doing this.
One of the first actions we took through the Nebraska Department of Labor (NDOL), led by Labor Commissioner John Albin, transformed the state’s unemployment program into a reemployment program. The purpose of reemployment is to help Nebraskans get back to work more quickly, and to help Nebraskans already in the workforce find better opportunities. The program helps participants to create and post a resume in a searchable online jobs database, so that employers can find them. It also pairs participants with a jobs coach to help maximize their potential during the search process. And the program requires Nebraskans to search for work more often. This program has been very successful. The number of individuals exhausting their benefits is down, and people are getting back to work more quickly. Because of this, we have reduced the unemployment insurance tax rate by over 25 percent, saving job creators $20 million last year alone.
Another way we can help connect Nebraskans to great-paying jobs is by helping connect young students to great careers at an early age to help them understand their options. The Legislature and I worked together to create the Developing Youth Talent Initiative (DYTI) in 2015. The program helps expose middle school students in the 7th and 8th grades to great opportunities in manufacturing and information technology fields. Over the past few years, we have seen businesses team up with 23 school districts to serve at least 7,000 students, and we are adding new programs every year. This has helped increase interest at the high school level. Hastings Public schools have seen a 15 percent increase in the number of students who enroll in skills and technical sciences courses after participating in a full year of DYTI programming.
NDOL is also teaming up with private businesses to establish registered apprenticeship programs. These programs utilize an “earn while you learn” model and help train Nebraskans in high-demand careers. Our efforts began a couple years ago with a $200,000 ApprenticeshipUSA grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Today, there are approximately 114 Registered Apprenticeship programs in Nebraska, representing an increase of 31 percent since 2016. This year, we have seen new programs popping up around the state. Aulick Industries in Scottsbluff is partnering with Scottsbluff High School on a program for industrial manufacturing technicians. Henderson Healthcare is teaming up with the American Health Information Management Association on a hospital coding program. And Grand Island Public Schools’ Career Pathways Institute added apprenticeship opportunities including welders, industrial manufacturing technicians, and automotive technician specialists.
These are just a few of the ways we are helping Nebraskans get great jobs and develop our people. Over the next year, we are going to be looking at new ways to build on our successes. We are going to double down on what is working and we are looking at what other states are doing, so we can bring the best ideas here. Nebraska can never do too much to invest in our people! As we continue our work, I hope you will share any ideas you have by writing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 402-471-2244.