LINCOLN — More apprenticeships and more scholarships for high-demand, highly skilled careers are among the recommendations of a task force of state lawmakers looking at the state’s labor shortage.

The task force, which released its 2019 report on Monday, said that while Nebraskans have a strong work ethic, there’s a “mismatch” when it comes to finding enough skilled workers to fill jobs in areas like information technology, science, engineering, math and construction trades.

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Overall, the state has a “workforce deficit” of nearly 25,000 such workers, according to the Legislature’s Economic Development Task Force report. Another problem identified in the report: Nebraska also has one of the lowest growth rates in the nation for those in the 25- to 29-year-old age bracket.

State Sen. Kate Bolz, who led the task force, said that some members of the group, including her, will be introducing bills in the 2020 session of the Legislature based on the findings of the task force.

“All of these initiatives could be a win-win-win for our state, for our workers and for our employers,” Bolz said. It may take some increased spending by the state, Bolz said, but task force members felt strongly that the costs should be shared by businesses and philanthropic groups, as well as government.

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State business leaders have said that Nebraska faces a workforce “crisis” in which there are plenty of available jobs but not enough trained workers to fill them. Several studies, including the “Blueprint Nebraska” report released earlier this year, have called for more steps to attract and retain workers in the state.

Bolz said task force members plan to take action.

Among the workforce development recommendations:

1. Enlist the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to track workforce outcomes and use that data to better focus educational and training efforts on needed skills and identify weaknesses in those efforts.

2. Increase investment in apprenticeship programs aligned with high-demand skills and industries.

3. Develop a career-education scholarship program for students pursuing careers in high-demand, high-skill, high-wage jobs, the so-called “H3 careers.”

4. Better retention of young Nebraskans who have gone through the state’s educational system via student loan repayment initiatives.

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Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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