Ricketts proposes new $4,000 annual scholarships aimed at filling Nebraska’s workforce needs

LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts announced a proposed new college scholarship program Monday aimed at filling critical workforce needs for Nebraska.

If funded by the State Legislature, the new Nebraska Talent Scholarships program would provide $4,000 annual scholarships for students in specific majors at the University of Nebraska, the three state colleges and the six community colleges.

NU President Hank Bounds said businesses constantly tell him that Nebraska desperately needs more skilled people to fill job openings. But too many young people leave Nebraska for college and work.

“We face a workforce crisis in this state,” he said.

Greg Adams, executive director of the Nebraska Community College Association, echoed that sentiment, saying that everyone in education has heard the pleas of employers searching for workers. He said the proposed program would help.

“It’s not going to fix everything, but it’s a step forward,” he said. “It’s our legislative priority to build our workforce.”

The proposed scholarship program would provide 250 scholarships for the university and another 250 for state colleges in the first year, at a cost of $2 million. The number would double in the second year, for a cost of $4 million annually.

The scholarships would be available to university students studying mathematics, engineering, industrial technology and computer information systems. The state college scholarships would be provided for students of rangeland management, criminal justice, computer information systems and industrial technology.

The community colleges would have 65 scholarships in the first year, at a cost of $260,000. The number and cost would double in the second year. Each community college would determine the target areas of study, based on input from residents of the regions they serve.

In addition, Ricketts proposed to expand his Developing Youth Talent Initiative, which helps launch efforts to get middle-school students interested in manufacturing and technology.

Instead of two grants per year, the governor wants to offer 12 grants. The grants foster collaborations between private industry and public schools.

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