I recently had the pleasure of participating in Leadership Nebraska, a statewide leadership program hosted by the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce & Industry. As a non-native resident, I chose this program to learn more about our state’s greatest strengths and weaknesses, so I could better understand the issues facing Nebraskans. Although I had a sense of what the program was going to entail, I had no idea just how much I was going to learn and appreciate about our state.
Leadership Nebraska is a nine-month program and participants are chosen from across the state. Each month, you visit a different city and tour local businesses, meet with Chamber of Commerce officials, learn about new economic development projects, tour dairy farms, etc. For three days, you’re immersed in high-level discussions with your fellow classmates ranging from workforce development issues to education issues to how trade talks at the national level will impact Nebraska’s agriculture industry. Although every session was unique, at the end of three days, it became clear that each community was faced with the same obstacle.
Communities Working to Solve Workforce Shortage
Nebraska has a population issue. Every year, people move to surrounding states, and the influx of people moving to Nebraska is not growing quickly enough to make up the difference. Statewide there are more than 58,000 vacant jobs, and communities need a qualified workforce to help our state grow. While efforts are being made at the state level, it was wonderful to see that local communities are also doing their part to address this workforce challenge.
Despite this issue, I found Nebraska to be a beautiful state, with each community offering something unique. In Omaha, we toured Offutt Air Force Base, our country’s Strategic Command headquarters. Here, servicemembers are responsible for our country’s strategic deterrence, space operations and missile defense. In western Nebraska, we visited the Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area where we learned about Nebraska’s water system. In Lincoln, we saw the Legislature in action and in Kearney we learned about the crane migration’s economic impact to the local community. More importantly, at every stop, we met local leaders making a difference in their communities. Nebraska is a vibrant state, with people eager to make a difference to help their communities grow. As a new Nebraskan, I am amazed to see this dedication and I am more determined than ever to do my part.
Leadership Nebraska was one of the best experiences! It was an incredible program and I will always be grateful to Roberta Pinkerton, the Leadership Nebraska Director, and to my fellow classmates of Class XI for the lifelong friendships and for showing me the real Nebraska. I would also like to thank First Five Nebraska Director Becky Veak. Without her encouragement and support, I would not have been able to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Finally, thank you Nebraska, for opening your arms and for making me realize that my new home is an incredible place to live.
Elizabeth Lopez Everett
First Five Nebraska