LINCOLN — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Monday that companies in Broken Bow, York and Scottsbluff will get state grants to help launch programs exposing middle school students to manufacturing careers.

The companies are Becton Dickinson, a medical supplies maker in Broken Bow; Cyclonaire, which designs and manufactures pneumatic conveyor equipment in York; and Aulick Industries, a Scottsbluff company that specializes in transportation equipment.

Vinc Aulick, president of Aulick Industries, said the hope is to get young Nebraskans to rethink the possibilities in manufacturing.

The field offers students the chance to make a good living and support a family without leaving the state and without incurring lots of college debt, he said.

“People are realizing there’s very good, high-paying jobs out there,” Aulick said. “There’s no shame in working with your hands.”

The grants, worth up to $175,000 each, are provided through the Developing Youth Talent Initiative, a program proposed by Ricketts and started in 2015 to help meet Nebraska’s need for skilled workers.

The initiative aims to reach middle school students and get them thinking about careers in manufacturing and technology. The companies will work with their local schools in developing the local programs.

This is the third year of grants. Previous winners included Flowserve Corp. of Hastings, Hollman Media of Kearney, Distefano Technology and Manufacturing of Omaha and MetalQuest of Hebron.

Courtney Dentlinger, the Nebraska economic development director, said the results from the initial programs showed promise.

About half the students participating in the Distefano-backed program had an interest in manufacturing before going through the program. Student interest reached 100 percent by the end.

In Hastings, enrollment in skills and technical sciences classes jumped 16 percent among students who spent a full year in the Flowserve-backed program.

“Exposing our youth to this program is a win-win for growing Nebraska,” she said. “The (initiative) provides the necessary tools to build labor skills unique to IT and manufacturing, and fosters early relationships between students and Nebraska business leaders.”

Martha Stoddard keeps legislators honest from The World-Herald's Lincoln bureau, where she covers news from the State Capitol. Follow her on Twitter @StoddardOWH. Phone: 402-473-9583.

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