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The Nebraska Internship Program

Today I’ll be testifying on LB 386 – the proposed Nebraska Internship Program. I’ve included my testimony to the Unicam below if you’re interested. LB 386 is a pretty cool effort to create an incentive for Nebraska businesses to grow their workforce (and future economic potential) by growing their young talent – with interns. Internship programs work – I’m a product of an internship in economic development and that was when I first became familiar with Ord. Of all my friends and colleagues, those that worked in internships in college now are gainfully employed in their area of study. If you recall, this effort is one piece to a four-part effort to realign funds for economic development strategy in Nebraska. This is one-forth of a major paradigm shift – change that is both needed and good.

Nebraska State Capitol

President Lincoln and the Nebraska State Capitol - photo by Tim O'Brien

You can read the details of the bill here – this would go a long way in helping Valley County businesses bring back young talent. Which by the way is a huge need here in Valley County – unemployment in Valley County is at pre-recession levels (2.9%). Additionally, this helps us confront the issues that out-migration of young talent creates in Ord and the surrounding area.

Wish us luck – we have quite a potent legislative team that will be working on this effort. In addition, on Wednesday and Thursday, the Nebraska Economic Developments Association (in which I’m a board member) will be rolling out their legislative agenda as well. In all, it should be a very productive time in Lincoln.

Testimony of Caleb Pollard
Before the Business and Labor Committee, supporting LB386, The Nebraska Internship Program

Chairman Lathrop and members of the Business and Labor Committee, I am Caleb Pollard, Executive Director of Valley County Economic Development and the Ord Area Chamber of Commerce.  I represent the organization that I lead, but also Omaha and Lincoln Chambers of Commerce, and the Nebraska Economic Developers Association.  I am here today to express my support for LB386, the Nebraska Internship Program.

Access to skilled, talented workers is the battleground for the 21st Century economy. When you ask Nebraska businesses what the greatest threats are to their business’ vitality, whether they be rural or urban, access to quality, skilled workers is always among the top.

Classic economic development theory argues that innovation is the only sustainable, long-term driver of economic growth. Innovation is not possible without a highly skilled workforce. The innovation and labor necessary for continuous economic growth in the 21st century requires a consistent stream of highly talented workers. Nebraska businesses’ ability to be competitive in a global economy is impossible without access to skilled workers.

Regardless of the recession, talent shortages are everywhere. As recently as November of 2010, my county, Valley County is now at pre-recession levels of unemployment. I have a skilled workforce shortage in my community. These facts are not unique to Valley County or even Nebraska.

The USA Today reports that “the portion of people ages 16-24 in the labor market is at the lowest level since the government began keeping track in 1948…There are 17 million in that age group who are employed, the fewest since 1971 when the population was much smaller.”

Over the next twenty years, 78 million baby boomers will reach retirement age. In fact, baby boomers reach age 65 this year. In Nebraska, that effect is exacerbated by the population outmigration of young adults; adults who are almost always seeking post-secondary education or employment opportunities elsewhere. Until just recently, all of Nebraska was a net out-migration state for skilled young talent. The out-migration of youth to other states constitutes both a loss of talent and a transfer of wealth.

According to workforce.com, “A job-skills shortage is already reality in the manufacturing industry, and is likely to spread to other industries over the next 10 to 15 years as baby boomers retire. Despite a recession that cost 2 million manufacturing jobs, a recent study by the National Association of Manufacturers warns that “manufacturing could experience a shift from merely having a talent shortage to facing a serious labor crisis.”

That’s just manufacturing. Warnings also are forecast about the need for savvy, well-trained workers in job categories such as information technology and the global-energy and electrical-utility industries. Shortages are expected in the global competition for managers, engineers, technicians, skilled craftspeople, and front-line workers, mostly jobs requiring a college degree or technical education.”

Therein lies the essential need for Legislative Bill 386. Here we have an opportunity to reallocate existing funds; not appropriate new; to fund a new talent and innovation-driven economic development strategy. Economic development experts are in agreement: grooming talent through internship programs allows companies to secure future human resource assets while creating a continuity of leadership within the organization. This continuity of business leadership will soften the blow that comes with losing 78 million wizened workers over the next twenty years.

To be certain, it is far easier to retain talent than to recruit it. This scenario is a win-win for the worker and the company.

To conclude, I’d like to leave you with some comments from Richard Florida, a world-renowned academic on economic development. Florida states:

‘The structural forces that are reshaping the U.S. economy from an industrial to a more idea, knowledge, and human capital driven post-industrial economic system will continue to deepen. Left unchecked, these forces will continue to divide the U.S. economy and U.S. society by skill-level, occupation, and economic class – the kind of work people do.”

The Nebraska Internship Program is an essential economic development strategy for the 21st Century. I ask that you support Legislative Bill 386.

One Response to “The Nebraska Internship Program”

  1. Adam Says:

    Thanks a lot for trying to describe the terminlogy for the newcomers!

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