The Aksarben Foundation intends to double the number of people who earn career certification and two-year associate degrees in Nebraska and increase the number of four-year graduates.
The foundation’s workforce development initiative is still in the planning stage, but one part will be a $500,000 challenge grant fund, according to the Omaha World-Herald. Some of it will go to each of the six Nebraska community college districts. The grants will require the colleges to also raise money to support workforce development programs.
Aksarben will award 100 two-year scholarships valued at $4,000 each toward students’ associate degrees or program certifications in the 2019-20 academic year.
“Anybody that wants to go to a community college, we’ll find a way to get them there,” said Terry Kroeger, board of governors chairman for Aksarben, a 122-year-old charitable organization.
The state’s lack of workforce growth stunts economic progress and leaves employers with too few qualified workers for jobs they want to create, the state’s business and economic leaders have said.
“This gets at some of the core challenges we have as a state and as a city,” said Dana Bradford, vice chairman of Aksarben’s board of governors and chairman of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. “There is a huge gap between workforce supply and demand.”
About 9,000 people a year are earning certificates or two-year degrees in Nebraska— a figure that needs doubling, he said.
“We need new workers and jobs that pay higher and better wages,” Bradford said. “You don’t grow your economy on $25,000-a-year jobs. People can’t live on that.”
The foundation also intends to raise its Aksarben/Horatio Alger four-year scholarships next school year to $10,000 a year from $6,000.