This spring, we celebrated 7,200 new graduates from the University of Nebraska – new Husker, Maverick, Loper and UNMC alumni who are the future leaders of our state.
It’s one of my favorite times of the year. Commencement brings to life the fundamental reason public higher education exists: to create opportunities for students to build a better future for themselves and the world around them.
Each graduating class from the University of Nebraska transforms our state in ways impossible to quantify. These students become the next generation of teachers, health professionals, agricultural leaders, entrepreneurs and engineers. Not only are they filling today’s vacancies, they’re creating jobs that don’t even exist yet – highly skilled, well-paying positions that propel Nebraska forward.
They increase our tax base, pumping millions into the economy every year. College graduates contribute to strong communities through high rates of volunteerism and public service.
And University of Nebraska graduates, having learned from the best in their fields in the classrooms and labs of our campuses, are uniquely positioned to solve some of the greatest challenges of our time: treating cancer and other devastating diseases, produce enough food to feed the world. , protecting our national security.
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In fact, no other entity has as much of an impact on Nebraska’s economy and workforce as the University of Nebraska. With over 50,000 students, world-class faculty and a vibrant research enterprise that affects everything from the food you eat to the healthcare you receive, the scope and scale of the university’s work is significant. and large scale.
While the chancellors and I are immensely proud of the university’s impact on Nebraska’s economic development, we also know that we can’t just continue to do business as usual.
It’s time to do more – create more opportunities for students, form more partnerships with local businesses, provide more internships that will lead to well-paying jobs right here in the state.
Nebraska’s labor needs are too urgent for its public university not to aggressively pursue economic development. In poll after poll, the clarion call from business leaders is that the workforce is their #1 challenge. We can all be proud that Nebraska’s economy has been more resilient than most thanks to COVID. -19, but to really grow and be competitive, we need more manpower.
This includes university graduates who can fill critical shortages in areas such as health, IT and education. And it will force us to retain Nebraskas talent and make our state the destination of choice for people looking for a great place to live, work and raise their families.
Our challenge is clear, but Nebraskanians know what it means to have a penchant for action. As a university, we understand that it is time to act.
That’s why, as we began updating the University of Nebraska System Strategic Plan, one of the first items on our list was a goal for every student at the University of Nebraska to have a internship or other experiential learning opportunity.
That’s why we’ve launched new programs like UNO’s Career Connect, a collaboration with local businesses to provide unprecedented access to paid internships for UNO students. That’s why UNL’s Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources just sent 26 students across the state for 10-week internships focused on rural community growth. That’s why UNK has formed a new partnership with Central Community College ensuring a seamless transition from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree for students in a variety of business fields.
That’s why we’re exploring new strategies to make it easier for working professionals to earn degrees that can advance their careers and to help the more than 300,000 Nebraskanians who have earned college credit graduate. And that’s why we join elected leaders and education colleagues in pursuing a bold new goal for 70 percent of Nebraskanians ages 25-34 to have post-secondary credentials.
None of us can do it alone, after all. Workforce development is a statewide challenge — and a national competition. With our shared bold vision for economic growth, I believe Nebraskans will compete to win.
Ted Carter is system president at the University of Nebraska.