A man on a computer and women on her phone sit across from each other at a table.
Rose Baker, talent team manager of the Department of Economic Development, said the initiative to provide students with resources to encourage them to stay and work in Nebraska is worked on department-wide and not limited to a single person. Courtesy photo opportunity.nebraska.gov

Lincoln’s Department of Economic Development, a state agency dedicated to growing Nebraska, has been working on an initiative to keep young talented individuals in the Nebraska workforce by helping provide resources to employers. The initiative, specifically aimed at students, is part of the department’s Talent and Innovation initiative and uses The Intern Nebraska Grant Program. 

Rose Baker, talent team manager of the department, said her team focuses on the retention and attraction of the Nebraska workforce. 

The InternNebraska program was introduced to the 102nd Nebraska State Legislature in 2011 under LB 386. Baker said the grant program hopes to connect students and employers from across the state.

“The purpose is to support internship opportunities for 11th and 12th-grade students in public and private high schools, as well as college and university students, to “retain such students and attract workers to Nebraska,”  Baker said. 

According to the DED website, InternNE provides financial assistance to businesses located in Nebraska who provide internships. Any for-profit business or non-profit Nebraska organization is eligible for the grants. 

“The intent of the program is to provide students with valuable internships here in Nebraska in order to retain or attract those students,” Baker said. 

The employers are reimbursed 50% or up to $7,500 for wages, depending on their size. Businesses with less than 50 employees can get reimbursed for their wages. Companies with more than 50 employees can get reimbursed for transportation, housing, equipment, needed training, etc, but not wages. 

The department received a $20 million appropriation from the last legislative session, which will help cover these reimbursements. 

Kaylie Hogan-Schnittker, director of talent strategy for the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development, works with employers and the community to access resources. These resources could be training, software and funds. 

“If there was a word to describe my job,  it would be connection connector,” Hogan-Schnittker said.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is also taking part in this initiative with its N2025 plan along with experiential learning plans. According to the N2025 Strategic Plan website, the N20205 plan “Outlines the aims, strategies, expectations, and targets for the first five years of the 25-year vision articulated within the N150 Commission Report.”

n2025 final figure1 - Economic development initiative aims to keep young talent in Nebraska
The aims of the N2025 Strategic Plan each represent different purposes or outcomes. The plan discussed strategies to implement each aim. Courtesy // Office of The Chancellor/ The N2025 Strategic Plan

Tracy Lungrin, director of University Career Services at UNL, said one aim of the plan is to innovate student experiences that prepare graduates to be life-long learners and contributors to the workforce in Nebraska and the world.

“It’s really about creating as many opportunities as we can for graduates to stay here and start their life and build their life and live a quality of life in Nebraska,” Lungrin said.

Lungrin said N2025 is more than just providing students with internships. It’s also providing them with experiential learning opportunities. 

The Career Services website provides resources and learning opportunities that students can use to enhance their education. Some of these include studying abroad, job shadowing, practicum/student teaching, research and more. 

University Career Service’s current strategy is to work with Hogan-Schnittker and the State Chamber to create resources for employers. Additionally, USC is helping employers connect and recruit at UNL by referring them to the correct career coach who works with programs in the specified major. 

Due to the labor shortage, the purpose of the initiative is to help recent college graduates start their life.

Baker said Nebraska also has a low unemployment and high participation rates. She wants to make sure students consider Nebraska when thinking of where to live. 

“Nebraska is ‘The Good Life. It’s a great place to live, work and play. We value our young people and the talent/diversity they bring to our communities and workforce,” Baker said. 

Lundgrin said a student internship could lead to a full-time job or a chance to advance. She said the chance to network and create a community is more present. 

“Statistics say that a lot of graduates that are coming right out of school, the majority are staying in Nebraska, at least for the first couple of years,” Lungrin said. 

Another benefit of keeping Nebraska talent local is increasing diversity in the state. The department’s goal is to keep the talent the state currently has and grow those people, as well as bring in new talent. Hogan-Schnittker said students coming from out-of-state might have different experiences that can add diversity. 

“It’s really important that we have people from different walks of life, regardless of their education, race, whatever, in order to have a really well-rounded community,” Hogan-Schnittker said.

Alyssa Onnen is a senior at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln studying journalism and advertising & public relations. She has minors in criminology & criminal justice, psychology, and communication studies. She plans to graduate in May of 2023.