OPINION

Legislative Update with Senator Julie Slama

Syracuse Journal-Democrat

Help Wanted: Everywhere

Last week, while traveling through Valentine, Nebraska on a quick road trip to promote financial literacy resources, I made a supper stop at the Peppermill & EKV Lounge. Notably, the sign outside the restaurant had a timely advertisement. It said the following: “EVERYONE IN TOWN IS HIRING FYI.” 

Nebraska has one of lowest unemployment rates in the country. The Nebraska Department of Labor reported that the Unemployment Rate for June was a mere 2.5%. Low unemployment is the cornerstone of a solid economy, but we have a problem in Nebraska: we don’t have enough people to fill the good-paying jobs available. 

Our state is taking steps to address our workforce shortage. We have several programs in place to help keep talent in our state. The first program is the Nebraska Department of Economic Development’s Career Scholarship Program. This program awards aid to Nebraska community colleges and Nebraska private nonprofit postsecondary institutions. With this extra funding, these schools can provide scholarships to students pursuing degrees in targeted, high-need fields with labor shortages. Through this program, community college students may be awarded up to $5,000 a year for up to 3 years, and private nonprofit postsecondary institution students may be awarded up to $10,000 a year for up to 4 years.

Next is the Career Scholarship Program offered by the Nebraska State College System. This program allows students studying certain programs to obtain academic scholarships ranging from $2,000-$10,000 per year. This program allows Chadron, Peru, and Wayne State students to get their degrees at an affordable cost while also providing on-the-job career experience through internships and other experiential learning opportunities. 

Through these two Career Scholarship Programs, students are encouraged to stay in Nebraska and help serve our more rural communities. However, more needs to be done to address our workforce shortage in both the short- and the long-term. I introduced LB 594 last year, aptly named the “Rural Workforce Crisis Act.” My office is working with employers, economic development groups, educational institutions, and labor interests to craft a final version of the bill to take another step in addressing our workforce shortage.

My advice for recent high school graduates: don’t go into debt at a four-year university “deciding what you want to do with your life.” Go to a trade school, community college, or state college to complete a high-need degree or certificate in a trade without debt. You can always “figure things out” while making $100k+ at a high-need job. Don’t miss your opportunity in this labor market!

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

Nebraska State Senator Julie Slama