Nebraska will have more than 34,000 annual openings in high-skill, high-demand, high-wage jobs in the years ahead, according to the state’s Department of Labor.
More than two-thirds of those will require higher education. And many of them are in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields that are critical to Nebraska’s future economic growth.
Across all campuses, the University of Nebraska is putting strategies in place to address the urgent workforce needs facing the state, according to a presentation to the NU Board of Regents.
“Every time I talk to business leaders, they tell me their top three needs from the University of Nebraska are workforce, workforce and workforce,” NU President Hank Bounds said. “As a university, we’re laser-focused on meeting those needs. The good news is that we have the leadership, the talent and the commitment in place to succeed.
“Yet Nebraska’s competitiveness depends on our ability to do even more as a state. We’re excited to work together with the private sector and state policymakers to solve our workforce crisis and build the economy of the future.”
Nebraska Department of Labor projections show that the state’s annual H3 job openings through 2026 include nearly 1,500 openings for registered nurses, 1,000 openings for accountants and auditors, hundreds of engineering openings, and 1,700 openings in IT-related areas like software development and computer system analysis. Needs exist across the entire state, as does demand for postsecondary education, Bounds noted.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) College of Information Science & Technology (IS&T) reported to the Board on their efforts to grow enrollment, increase internship opportunities for students, develop programs that are responsive to workforce needs, and expand partnerships with industry that will attract and retain more top talent in the state.
UNO is working to meet the needs of its community, College of IS&T Dean Hesham Ali told regents, including the “incredible, explosive demands” in IT fields.
In today’s technology-driven workforce, just about every field – medicine, agriculture, education, marketing – requires some mastery of IT, Ali said.
“I’ve been in the IT business for many years, and this is probably the most exciting time because of the penetration of IT in different disciplines,” he said. “This is not going to go down. This will continue to increase.”
UNO’s College of IS&T has been on the forefront of anticipating workforce demands, for example leading the way in launching a bioinformatics program in the 1990s, Ali said. The college has grown its degree offerings from four to 14, some the result of innovative partnerships across departments and NU campuses to best serve students and the private sector.
The college also is working to develop the future IT workforce. Partnerships with K-12 schools like CodeCrush, a STEM immersion experience for middle-school girls, are building the IT pipeline and raising awareness of UNO’s programs. Ali said the college’s broader Women in IT initiatives have helped the college double its female undergraduate enrollment in recent years – but more work needs to be done to expand awareness and access for other underrepresented groups.
Other programs are creating new pathways for college students and working adults. The College of IS&T has worked with community colleges to strengthen transfer opportunities, and new professional development courses provide opportunities for working adults to acquire or refresh their IT skills.
“IT is challenging, it is interesting – everybody can do it,” Ali said. “We feel we have, for the most part, the programs that we need in place. The question is how to populate them with a higher number.”
Among the college’s 1,400 students, more than 60 percent plan to stay in the region after graduating, Ali said. More than 80 percent were already working or had a job offer in the IT field at the time of graduation.
He recalled a recent conversation with several students in his college who had jobs lined up so far in advance that they didn’t have to go through what is a familiar rite of passage for most students.
“They got jobs without even having a resume,” Ali said. “Which is crazy.”
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.