Growing Our State Through People Attraction, Retention & Development

“…business development in Nebraska is directly tied to the development
and growth of available ‘talent.’”

 

As the “talent attraction coordinator” for Nebraska’s Department of Economic Development (DED), my business is growing Nebraska. My team is dedicated to attracting, retaining and developing the people of Nebraska to match the growing job opportunities here.

  • Attract — Coordinate an extensive communications and outreach effort that promotes Nebraska as welcoming and attracts a diverse group of talented individuals to the state to live and work.
  • Retain — Develop programs and foster an environment that results in individuals remaining in the state.
  • Develop — Serve as a catalyst for advancing ideas, partnerships and actions that create and enhance pathways to career opportunities for Nebraska residents.

 

The Context

For many years, DED heard from businesses looking for help finding more people, or “talent.” In 2016, my team and I at DED surveyed 263 primary sector businesses (i.e. businesses that import capital into the community from outside the region) during company conversations and visits. Results showed that nearly 50% of these businesses experienced increasing employment needs and 80% reported experiencing recruitment problems.

Nebraska has the fourth lowest unemployment rate (2.8% in May 2017) and the fourth highest labor participation rate (69.5% in May 2017) in the nation. With few unemployed people seeking work and a limited pool of residents to add to the labor force, it is critical that Nebraska be proactive in both retaining the current workforce and attracting new people to the state to fill the growing opportunities here.

According to the US Census Bureau, Nebraska’s migration trends show that there was a net loss of 2,551 persons in state-to-state migration in 2014. Nebraskan’s aged 25 years and older with a Bachelor’s Degree or more education—key population from which high-skilled workers are often hired—left the state at an average rate of 11,861 per year over the 5-year period between 2011 and 2015, resulting in an outmigration of -6.5 per 1,000 people and ranking Nebraska 9th worst nationally. Migration trends coupled with Nebraska’s aging population has made this outmigration even more pronounced in rural areas. In 71 of Nebraska’s 93 counties, particularly in less densely populated Western Nebraska, there is a median age of 40 or older according to the US Census Bureau. People exiting the workforce for retirement in the coming years will exacerbate this already pressing issue.

Median Age 40 or Older in 71 of 93 counties
MedianAgeByCounty

Additionally, according to the Nebraska Department of Labor, there were 64,128 job openings advertised on its NEworks website in May 2017. This amounts to more than two job ads for every unemployed person in Nebraska. Conversely, industry projections predict growth in employment in 18 of the 20 industry sectors through 2022, with a total statewide growth of 9.54% between 2012 and 2022. Industry growth is undoubtedly already hindered by Nebraska’s tight labor market.

 

What This Means

All of this points to the fact that business development in Nebraska is directly tied to the development and growth of available “talent.” We have worked closely with the business community to identify the skills gaps and developed partnerships with the Department of Labor, Department of Education and other training providers to build talent pipelines. We strive to ensure our youth have experiences that will help them make thoughtful and well-informed career and education decisions. Over the last couple of years, DED has adjusted its strategy to intentionally include the attraction and retention of people as well.

I was hired about 18 months ago to research talent trends, develop a talent attraction and retention strategy and implement talent-focused initiatives. This research and many conversations with people and businesses across Nebraska has led me to believe that we will be most successful in recruiting young people (e.g. millennials) who have previously lived in Nebraska back to Nebraska. Some of us in this field like to call these individuals “boomerangs.”

Results from a 2010 Gallup survey of individuals who had previously lived in Nebraska revealed that people under 30 years old are more likely to return to Nebraska. Specifically, 45% of survey participants under 30 years old said there was at least a 50% chance they would someday return to Nebraska, in comparison to only 23% of overall participants who reported at least a 50% chance of returning to Nebraska.

DED recently collaborated with the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to update some of Gallup’s previous findings through a survey of University of Nebraska–Lincoln alumni who currently live outside of the state. In this survey, 87.9% of millennials (respondents born after 1980) responded “Yes” or “Maybe” when asked if they would return to Nebraska if the opportunity presented itself, compared to a slightly lower percentage, 83.9%, of overall participants. If they responded “Yes” or “Maybe” we followed up by asking how likely they were to return to Nebraska; 37.2% of millennials responded they were either “Very likely” or “Somewhat likely” to return compared to 34.6% of all participants.

Millennials:
Would you Return
to Nebraska?

Millennials:
How likely are you
to return to Nebraska?

AllisonHatch_PieCharts AllisonHatch_PieCharts2

 

DED Talent-Focused Initiatives

DED is in the process of implementing several talent-focused initiatives. According to the Development counselors international 10 Top Tips in Talent Attraction publication, one of the primary elements of any successful talent attraction and development strategy is to have a well-organized, visually compelling, informative web presence. My team is currently working closely with a website developer to create a one-stop-shop website that will promote Nebraska as a great place to live, work and play. The website is expected to launch this November and will feature job opportunities, culture and quality of life aspects, training opportunities and community engagement opportunities. Potential new residents will be drawn in by personal stories of people who love living in Nebraska and have the opportunity to connect directly with passionate Nebraskans eager to help them learn more about the state.

DED and a group of talent-focused economic development and chambers of commerce professionals are working collaboratively to create this network of passionate Nebraskans who will connect with potential new residents. When someone from outside of Nebraska shares that they are interested in learning more about living and working here, a volunteer from the network we are building will reach out to them directly to address their questions. The network, which will undoubtedly include many young professionals across the state, will also be asked to share the good news about Nebraska with their family and friends. I know that Nebraska’s current residents and employees are one of our most valuable resources as well as our state’s best recruiters. I hope that engaging Nebraskans in this effort to promote our state will also help strengthen their own desire to stay here.

My team and I will continue to work diligently on these projects, and many others still in the formation stages, to grow the state through attracting, retaining and developing great people. I know that I will reach out to you all for support and inspiration as well. Connecting Young Nebraskans was established to connect, empower and retain young leaders in the rural areas of Nebraska, making you an essential partner in DED’s mission to grow the state. I am thrilled about the possibilities of how we can achieve these goals together.

 


 

Allison Hatch

Allison Hatch

Talent Attraction Coordinator | Nebraska Department of Economic Development
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Allison Hatch oversees a state strategy for attracting qualified talent for growing job opportunities. She is involved with coordinating an extensive communications and outreach effort that promotes Nebraska as welcoming and attracts a diverse group of talented individuals to the state to live and work; developing programs and fostering an environment that results in individuals remaining in the state; and serving as a catalyst for advancing ideas, partnerships and actions that create greater pathways to career opportunities for Nebraska’s current and future workforce.

 


 

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Culture & Entertainment For Young Nebraskans

Don't do things for image — Do things to make a difference.

 

Q&A with Selena Aguilar, Nebraska State Fair Entertainment Assistant and CYN Steering Team Member

 

Why are culture and entertainment important for young Nebraskans?

It is so important for young people in general to feel like they have a purpose and that they are a part of something. I think this becomes especially important as we look to recruit and retain young Nebraskans to our rural communities—we need these people to feel connected to their community and entertainment and culture are a great way to do that. They bridge gaps and prevent people from feeling like they are missing out on something out there. Entertainment brings people together in a positive way.

 

Why are you passionate about each one (culture and entertainment)?

I come from a mixed background and have seen a lot of cultures blended together. I think that all unique cultures should be celebrated, because it is part of what gives a person fulfillment. We, as people, pull influence for all different cultures in our daily lives.

Entertainment has always held a special place in my life. I’ve had a passion for music and theater since I was in grade school. There are so many embarrassing videos of me “performing.”

The sole purpose of my job is to make people happy—to make sure attendees enjoy their time. No matter how crazy it gets, it is pretty amazing to think about bringing people of all different backgrounds together, and everyone enjoying themselves.

 

How do you think culture and entertainment can be created and sustained for young Nebraskans?

I’d like to think I’m part of that effort at the state level with my role at the fair, but it really only does take one person in a community to make a difference. Through CYN we are working hard to build the types of leaders who will step up in their community. No matter what your goal is, there are plenty of people out there who are just as passionate as you but need the right connector. It may be as easy as stepping out of your comfort zone and stepping up to make it happen.

Hear Nebraska is a great example of this. Speaking close to home, Hear Grand Island (a branch of Hear Nebraska) is a weekly local concert series in our downtown area during the summer. It has provided a way to bring not only community but businesses together as well.

Festivals are a great way to create an environment of culture and entertainment as well, but I’d suggest more long-term plans for sustainability—something people can get involved with regularly, not one weekend or even day a year. A good rule of thumb is to keep intentions true—don’t do things for image, do them to make a difference.

 

How does diversity tie into culture and entertainment?

To summarize, diversity is an influencer of culture, and culture is an influencer of entertainment. Without different belief systems, rituals and traditions, there would be no culture. Entertainment of all kinds is a powerful form of expression. It pulls influence from our beliefs, traditions and feelings.

 

Why are you passionate about diversity?

Diversity should be celebrated! I would love to never stop learning. Diversity is the perfect opportunity to learn. Accept when others differ from you, learn about them and celebrate what makes you an individual. Life would be pretty boring if we just did the same old thing all time. I believe in immersing yourself in other people’s worlds, not to make them your own, but to celebrate individuality.

 

How can Nebraska celebrate diversity?

In order to celebrate diversity anywhere, not just Nebraska, there needs be a true, honest focus on a long-term sustainability. There’s too much focus on celebration by separation—celebrating a culture within a day for example. While some do not see it as a problem, here is my perspective: It can feel like you’re being told: “Here is your day. You get this day, and this day only, and then the rest of the year you sit back and be quiet about it.” Celebrations of diversity shouldn’t be confined or restrained.

 

How have your passions for culture, entertainment and diversity impacted your professional career?

My passions for culture, entertainment and diversity have 100 percent influenced my professional career. I’ve always wanted to do something for a living that makes me happy but it also had to be realistic. As happy as singing on stage every day of my life would make me, it isn’t exactly a reliable path to follow. I tried a lot of different things before I found the niche of event planning. In pursuing event planning, my passion for entertainment actually pulled me into my current opportunity. Now I’m able to help create a huge, 11-day experience in culture, diversity and entertainment. I don’t think anything that didn’t offer me the same opportunity to intersect all of these important aspects to me would hold my passion.

 


 

Selena Aguilar

Selena Aguilar

Entertainment Assistant | Nebraska State Fair
Join Selena on LinkedIn

Selena Aguilar is originally from Grand Island, Neb., where she returned after graduating from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications in December 2016. Selena works as an entertainment assistant for the Nebraska State Fair, and serves as a member of the CYN Steering Team. She is passionate about fostering diversity and contributing to her community.

 


 

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Rural Futures Institute Invests in Research, Teaching Projects to Address Critical Rural Challenges, Find Solutions

Awards_ChuckQuote_Twitter

 

Rural mental and physical health care access, entrepreneurship and technology are among the critical topics addressed by this year’s competitive teaching and research grants through the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) at the University of Nebraska (NU).

Worth almost $400,000 in total, the 2017 grants engage faculty and students from across the four NU campuses as well as Kansas University, Purdue University, Peru State College and Wayne State College. At least 32 Nebraska communities, non-profit and business partners will be involved, and nearly all projects will include participation from K-12 students across the state.

“For America to thrive, our rural residents must thrive. The challenges and opportunities facing rural communities in Nebraska and across the country require action-oriented collaboration and commitment,” said RFI Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder. “The University of Nebraska, together with partners, is rigorously seeking and developing solutions that will help our rural people and places. Even more exciting, what we learn here can be scaled broadly, so Nebraska becomes a national model for building and sustaining vibrant rural communities of the future.”

The grants build on RFI’s successful Competitive Awards program that so far has funded 50 teaching and research projects in more than 100 Nebraska communities. The projects address unique challenges and opportunities facing rural populations in the areas of economic development, education, health care, diversity and inclusion and more.

 


 

2017 Teaching & Engagement Projects

Ending Mental Health Stigma & Promoting Mental Health Among Rural Nebraska College and University Students

Principal Investigator: Sonja Franziska Tutsch Russell, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Rural Health Education Network

The growing shortage of mental health professionals in rural areas, alongside the rising number of rural college and university students who experience mental health difficulties, calls for a comprehensive public health approach to addressing underlying causes of mental illness and related stigma. In collaboration with faculty and students at Wayne State College, the team seeks to develop and implement a promising mental health promotion curriculum aimed at addressing stigma and alleviating mental health difficulties among college and university students in Nebraska.

 

Obesity Intervention and Service Learning

Principal Investigator: Danae Dinkel, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Health Physical Education & Recreation

In an effort to combat the epidemic of rural pediatric obesity, Peru State College and the University of Nebraska at Omaha, in partnership with rural stakeholders, seek to develop a new service-learning course for undergraduates. The course will introduce post-secondary students to service learning and the prevalence of overweight and obesity in rural areas. It will also seek to engage existing and new partnerships with community-based organizations for students’ service learning.

 

Teaching Health, Exercise, Technology, & Aquaponics (THETA) Day Camps to Grow Future Health Professionals

Principal Investigator: Gregory Brown, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Kinesiology & Sports Sciences

Developed by a team of seven faculty members at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) this project focuses on inspiring and motivating rural middle school students to pursue careers in health science. Students will participate in a series of half-day science education camps during which they will learn about various careers that are associated with health science topics through physical activity, nutrition and food growing programs. UNK undergraduate students with career goals in health science will lead the camps.

 

Systems Thinking for Sustainable Future

Principal Investigator: Ashu Guru, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

This project provides an opportunity for youth to develop system-thinking skills by understanding how food, energy and water systems are interconnected. Undergraduate students from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Engineering will design and develop aquaponics system kits as well as lesson plan trainings and implement the project in K-12 schools in rural Nebraska. They will use a train-the-trainer model to prepare middle school educators and high school students to implement the plan in their school system.

 

Rural Narratives on Welcoming Communities

Principal Investigator: Athena Ramos, University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Public Health, Center for Reducing Health Disparities

The team will use appreciative inquiry to interview community leaders about creating welcoming communities and work with partners to develop powerful narratives, provide access to resources and disseminate best practices.

 


 

2017 Research & Engagement Projects

Building Capacity for Developing, Implementing, and Evaluating the Family Health and Wellness Coalition’s Community Health Improvement Plan

Principal Investigator: Todd Bartee, University of Nebraska at Kearney, Kinesiology & Sports Sciences

The Family Health and Wellness Coalition was formed in 2015 with the focus of reducing chronic disease risk among Nebraska residents of Boone, Colfax, Nance and Platte counties. This emerging coalition is motivated yet hampered by challenges to participation, resources and other core capabilities such as planning, implementing and evaluating their work. Through this project, partners will produce a systematic community change process that can be replicated in other rural areas.

 

Assessment of and Treatment Applied to Food Addiction to Encourage Self-Management of Obesity

Principal Investigator: Trina Aguirre, University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Nursing

The research team will evaluate the efficacy of using nurse practitioners to deliver interventions to patients referred to an outpatient clinic for the treatment of obesity. The primary objective is to evaluate the efficacy of four interventions in obese rural patients with and without food addiction to develop effective, better-targeted interventions to help obese rural residents successfully self-manage their obesity, enabling them to live healthier lives and reduce the high cost of treating the comorbidities associated with obesity.

 

Nurturing High School Entrepreneurs and Transforming Local Business Owners

Principal Investigator: Surin Kim, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, College of Education and Human Sciences

There is a substantial need for educational programs that promote entrepreneurship and vocational skills for both adults and youth whose retention will be critical for rural futures. Such programs can help local business owners maintain and grow their enterprises and promote career readiness and entrepreneurship for youth. This project intends to analyze the unique needs of rural businesses and youth to implement a highly successful entrepreneurship program within the local context, modify as needed and disseminate via extension professionals and relevant educational entities.

 

Increasing Rural Civic Engagement in the Digital Age

Principal Investigator: Roberto Gallardo, Purdue University, Purdue Center for Regional Development with University of Nebraska at Omaha and Nebraska Extension Co-Principal Investigators

There is significant interest in the role digital platforms play on increasing civic engagement in urban communities. However, their role in rural settings is not understood but critical as well. This project seeks to increase civic engagement in three rural Nebraska communities by developing strategies and tactics for engaging in conversations online, as well as social media training, to assist rural communities in increasing and improving overall engagement.

 

Extended project descriptions and lists of all current contributors and partners are available at http://ruralfutures.nebraska.edu/awards.