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Andy Long

MEDC Update

An update on the McCook Economic Development Corporation, by Andy Long, executive director.

Meeting the need for qualified workers

Friday, May 31, 2019

Every year the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce travels the state talking about their priorities for the state legislature. Every year that Iíve attended, the message has been the same on the need to lower our state taxes. When they came to McCook last fall, I was ready to hear the same message. I was surprised. New State Chamber president Bryan Sloan said the lack of a qualified workforce is now the most pressing economic issue in the state.

Last month, the State Labor Department said there were more than 36,000 open jobs in Nebraska, across nearly all fields. Currently, the unemployment rate is at 2.8 percent and Red Willow Countyís unemployment rate is 2.6%.

Most people who can keep a job are working. The challenge will only become larger as the number of working-age Nebraskans actually peaked in 2018 and is set to decline for the next decade.

As I meet with employers in the area, I hear the same thing. If you go to Parkerís web page you see the following job openings in McCook: Product Engineer, Material Manager, Value Stream Manager, Production Openings, Electronic Maintenance.

At Community Hospitalís website, they currently have seven open job postings. If you are an auto or diesel technician, almost any business who employees technicians is hiring. In certain subject areas, it is difficult for our local schools to generate any type of applicant pool.

As we look at our areaís workforce demand, we are working at being proactive to meet our current and future demand. At our last MEDC board meeting, we invited Superintendent Grant Norgaard, Board President Tom Bredvick, and Kelly Rippen, McCook Community College Vice President to talk about local workforce needs and what partnership MEDC can provide with education and business to meet the need.

The school district already has a great partnership with Community Hospital on exploring health careers. If you visited with our graduating seniors, you probably noticed a lot of them are going into health careers.

Part of that is the careers program these two organizations have developed. As we talked, Superintendent Norgaard said he welcomes businesses to contact the school and see how they can work together to help students be exposed to the opportunities available locally.

This past year, the school district held its first set of Bison Days where students got the chance to explore hobbies and local career opportunities.

The college is working on developing a program to help train more local electronic maintenance technicians.

The program should be able to use the resources available at the North Platte campus to offer a hybrid education to provide technical training to people living locally in McCook. The college has also hired a new area Career Connection Coach that should assist in helping connect employers with students.

MEDC is currently working with the college to develop an internship program that will help line students up with local businesses and provide the resources local employers need to have a successful internship.

This is a good start, but we need to do more. Hopefully, our health career pathways program at the high school level can be extended to the skilled trades and manufacturing sectors locally. The college has a great opportunity with the old Elks building and with area high school partnerships to offer career and technical education locally.

We will move forward at the MEDC to meet local workforce needs, but I could use your help. If you are an employer and have a local job opening, I want to know. Let me know the following:

1. Job Title

2. Amount of Education Required

3. Pay level of the position

Many times the information used to help make decisions come from a regional or state level.

We need more data on the specific positions available and education needed to help connect our local educational institutions and students to the opportunities available here.

Contact me at 308-345-1200 or andy@mccookne.org if you want to visit more about your local workforce needs.

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