UNL launches partnership to help Nebraska prepare for growing demand in tech careers – Nebraska Examiner
LINCOLN — The growth of Nebraska’s tech workforce has accelerated in recent years, and the University of Nebraska’s flagship campus is introducing a new program that builds upon the momentum.
Today, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln launched a partnership with tech company SkillStorm to provide online, noncredit education — including some free courses — in growing computer technology related areas.
Kevin Shriner, UNL’s inaugural assistant vice chancellor for digital and online learning, said the training is geared in large part to Nebraskans who want to explore a career shift.
Participants can sharpen skills needed for increasingly popular fields such as information technology, cybersecurity and agricultural systems technology, and can do that via a more flexible route than a traditional baccalaureate degree program.
“It’s an opportunity not only for our students to gain some knowledge through free courses but also for anyone in Nebraska to be able to gain knowledge in areas that are really workforce driven,” Shriner said.
Joins other tech efforts
The UNL-SkillStorm venture follows other recently launched projects in the state that aim to strengthen the talent pipeline to tech career areas poised for growth.
The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry, for example, has hired a director to lead the new Tech Nebraska, a statewide organization created to grow the technology community, drive economic growth and shape policy.
Also this year, the Aksarben Foundation announced a new internship program, buoyed by a $20 million state contract, that is to better prepare emerging talent. Shonna Dorsey, who heads both the Aksarben-led internNE and Nebraska Tech Collaborative, said the internship program will connect many students with technology jobs.
More recently, the collaborative joined the Center for Public Affairs Research at University of Nebraska at Omaha in revealing a new and publicly accessible “Nebraska Tech Collaborative Dashboard,” which shows demographic and other timely data related to the industry.
The dashboard project is designed to help companies, policymakers and others understand that segment of the labor force and inform growth.
Among trends and highlights reflected in the dashboard:
-While little growth occurred in the state’s tech workforce from 2011 to 2016, the next five years showed nearly 24% growth in tech workers.
-As of 2021, the latest data available, 5.76% of the state workforce was in the tech industry.
- -Nebraska ranked 17th among U.S. states and the District of Columbia for the proportion of tech workers, putting it above Kansas (5.57%); Missouri (5.51%) and Iowa (5.20%).
‘Change that narrative’
Joe Mitchell, chief operating officer at SkillStorm, said fast-growing businesses in search of talent often look outside their state because the local workforce infrastructure hasn’t prepared for certain industries.
“UNL is taking steps to change that narrative in Nebraska,” Mitchell said.
Shriner, who was hired for his new position at UNL about eight months ago, likened the new partnership to distance education offered to farmers through the College of Agriculture. But the new venture focuses on tech careers.
Through the SkillStorm platform, participants can, at their convenience, enroll in a range of training programs, some free and others that cost. The range is from foundational courses such as java programming to a more focused certification curriculum in areas such as Salesforce Developer.
The UNL brand accompanies the certification.
“We’re tied to ensuring that the education they get is quality,” said Shriner.