University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green and officials from the Aksarben Foundation met on the Nebraska Innovation Campus on Monday, Oct. 14, to discuss the talent crisis in Nebraska’s technology field.
Mike Cassling, member of the Aksarben Foundation Board of Governors and CEO of CQuence Health Group, said during the press conference that Nebraska has a shortage of qualified individuals to fill jobs in the technology industry. In fact, business and education leaders are calling it a talent crisis.
The press conference was part of Nebraska Tech Collaborative, a group formed by the Aksarben Foundation to bridge the gap between business leaders and educators throughout the state and to address Nebraska’s shortage of high-tech workers, according to Nebraska Today.
"The number of new jobs and growth in Nebraska has been totally flat over the years while every other state is growing at double-digit numbers,” Cassling said at the press conference. “The bottom line is we don’t have the people to fill the jobs.”
Cassling said there are around 50,000 high-paying jobs in the technology industry that go unfilled in Nebraska each year.
Nebraska Tech Collaborative has several branches to improve the tech crisis, including creating a tech pipeline out of K-12 schools and higher education, promoting diversity and inclusion in the tech industry, creating undergraduate internships, working to create opportunities for veterans and recruiting workers from other states.
“We are going to create our own pipeline,” Nebraska Tech Collaborative President Jona Van Deun said. “There are a number of amazing programs that are going on here in the state, but everybody who is working on those amazing programs are not able to connect the way they should for us to move forward.”
Green said, out of the 25,000 students enrolled at UNL, only 2,900 are enrolled in fields that focus on building tech talent. He hopes to double the amount of IT professionals with the $160 million renovation of the College of Engineering.
"We get the message that we need to grow this talent for our state," Green said during the press conference.
Freshman computer engineering major Abby Seibel said she feels the College of Engineering and Nebraska do a good job of pushing students into real world experience. As a freshman, she said she has already had the chance to get involved in a research project.
“The most important thing that the engineering program does is the senior year capstone that gives students real life experience working as developers for real companies,” she said. “This ensures that UNL engineers are prepared for real industry work.”
The Nebraska Legislature introduced the ImagiNE Nebraska Act in January 2019 that would enhance Nebraska’s incentives by encouraging the creation of higher paying jobs and more investment from businesses already in Nebraska and out of state companies, according to a press release by the Nebraska Legislature.
The next meeting of Nebraska Tech Collaborative will take place at the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Ashland on Friday, Nov. 1.