5 Solutions for the 2024 Workforce Shortage in Nebraska

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Nebraska is renowned for its strong work ethic, thriving agricultural sector, and vibrant communities in the heart of the American Midwest.

Nebraska has 39 available workers for every 100 open jobs.

Its Worker Shortage Index stands at 0.39.

There are 54,000 job openings and 21,145 unemployed workers.

The labor force participation rate is 69.2%, with an unemployment rate of 2.0%.

The quit rate is 2.3,% and the hiring rate is 3.6%.[1]

The Cornhusker State has been grappling with a pressing issue, including a significant labor shortage, that threatens to disrupt its economic growth and stability.

The state finds itself at a critical juncture. The shortage of skilled workers across various industries has reached alarming levels, necessitating a concerted effort to address this challenge.

The labor shortage in Nebraska has affected multiple sectors, from agriculture and manufacturing to healthcare and information technology.

One of the primary factors contributing to this shortage is the state’s demographic shift. Like many other regions in the United States, Nebraska is experiencing an aging population, with a significant portion of the workforce nearing retirement age.

This demographic trend has resulted in a shrinking pool of available workers to meet the demands of a growing economy.

The exodus of young talent from rural areas to urban centers has exacerbated the labor shortage in Nebraska.

Many young Nebraskans are lured by the opportunities and amenities offered by metropolitan areas, leaving behind gaps in the workforce in smaller towns and rural communities.

This urban-rural divide has created a significant imbalance in the distribution of workers, posing a considerable challenge for businesses and industries across the state.

The impact of the labor shortage is felt acutely in key sectors that serve as Nebraska’s economic backbone.

The shortage of farm laborers and agricultural workers has led to operational challenges for farmers and ranchers, affecting production levels and supply chains.

The manufacturing industry needs help finding qualified workers to operate advanced machinery and drive innovation.

The healthcare sector is also under strain, with a growing demand for healthcare professionals such as nurses, physicians, and caregivers, outpacing the available workforce.

The technology sector, which plays an increasingly vital role in Nebraska’s economy, is not immune to the effects of the labor shortage.

Companies specializing in software development, cybersecurity, and data analytics struggled to help recruit and retain top talent, hindering their ability to compete in a global marketplace.

Addressing the labor shortage in Nebraska requires a multifaceted approach that combines short-term solutions with long-term strategies to develop a sustainable workforce pipeline.

Partnerships facilitating internships, apprenticeships, and mentorship programs can bridge the skills gap and provide students and job seekers with pathways to gainful employment in high-demand industries.

Nebraska policymakers must prioritize initiatives promoting workforce participation and talent retention across the state.

It is essential to address systemic barriers that hinder workforce participation, such as disparities in access to quality education, healthcare, and transportation.

Fostering relationships between industry, academia, government, and community stakeholders can help the state develop holistic solutions that address the root causes of the labor shortage and build a resilient and dynamic workforce for the future.

Solutions to navigate labor shortage

1. Invest in training and upskilling programs to reskill existing employees and enhance employee retention.

One immediate step that businesses can take is to invest in training and upskilling programs to reskill existing employees and equip them with the necessary competencies to fill critical roles.

The total fall enrollment has increased by approximately 1.6% compared to last year, resulting in a total decrease of 2.1% over the past 11 years.[2]

By fostering a culture of continuous learning and development, companies can enhance employee retention and mitigate the impact of the labor shortage.

Investing in workforce training programs tailored to the needs of industries experiencing labor shortages can help workers fill in-demand positions.

Businesses can develop training programs that equip individuals with the necessary skills and certifications to succeed in roles ranging from agriculture and manufacturing to healthcare and technology through partnering with educational institutions.

Apprenticeship programs offer a valuable avenue for individuals to gain hands-on experience and training in specific trades or industries.

Nebraska can attract individuals seeking to enter the workforce and provide them with a structured pathway to develop skills and expertise through promoting apprenticeship opportunities in collaboration with businesses, labor unions, and government agencies.

Collaborations between industry stakeholders, educational institutions, and government agencies are essential to aligning workforce development efforts with the labor market’s evolving needs.

Aligning educational curricula with industry needs and promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education can equip the residents with the technical skills and knowledge required to thrive in a rapidly evolving economy.

2. Hire international workers.

The EB-3 visa[3] provides a route for unskilled workers to obtain lawful permanent residence in the United States, potentially filling the labor force gaps.

Nebraska businesses can recruit foreign workers to fill critical roles in industries facing labor shortages by expanding access to the EB-3 visa program[4] and streamlining the application process for unskilled workers.

This strategy presents a valuable avenue for businesses to mitigate labor shortages and ensure continued productivity and expansion.

Investing in infrastructure, affordable housing, and quality healthcare services in rural areas can help attract and retain a diverse workforce, ensuring that communities outside urban centers remain vibrant and sustainable.

3. Address systemic barriers that hinder workforce participation, such as disparities in access to quality education, healthcare, and transportation.

This strategy involves implementing targeted policies and programs to ensure equal opportunities for all individuals to access these essential resources.

Nebraska is ranked sixth for its high quality of life, and with a 2.1% unemployment rate, it is tied with Utah for the lowest.

The state boasts a higher life expectancy of 79.5 years, surpassing the national average of 79.1 years.[5]

Focusing on improving access to quality education, healthcare, and reliable transportation creates an environment where everyone has the necessary tools and support to fully participate in the workforce, thereby contributing to a more inclusive and equitable society.

4. Promote inclusivity and diversity in the workforce to tap into a broader talent pool and leverage the skills and perspectives of individuals from all backgrounds.

By promoting inclusivity and diversity in the workforce, Nebraska can tap into a broader talent pool and leverage the skills and perspectives of individuals from all backgrounds.

In January 2024, the employment-to-population ratio for adult men stood at 67.7 percent, while the ratio for adult women was 56.9 percent.

Teenagers (aged 16 to 19) had an employment rate of 32.6 percent for the second consecutive month. These figures were relatively similar to those from a year earlier.

The employment-to-population ratio was 62.6 percent for Asians, 60.0 percent for both Whites and Blacks and 63.5 percent for individuals of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.[6]

By embracing inclusivity and diversity, organizations can cultivate an environment where every employee feels valued and respected, ultimately leading to heightened innovation, creativity, and overall success.

Diverse teams are better equipped to understand and cater to a wide range of customers, leading to improved customer satisfaction and business growth.

The Takeaway

Addressing the workforce shortage in Nebraska is a complex task that requires a multifaceted approach, combining short-term solutions with long-term strategies to develop a sustainable workforce pipeline.

By fostering partnerships between industry, academia, government, and community stakeholders, the state can work towards holistic solutions that address the root causes of the labor shortage.

Investing in training and upskilling programs, prioritizing initiatives promoting workforce participation, and addressing systemic barriers are crucial steps in mitigating the impact of the labor shortage.

Exploring options such as the EB-3 visa program to attract skilled workers from other countries can contribute to building a resilient and dynamic workforce for the future, ensuring continued economic growth and stability for the state.

Through concerted efforts and collaboration, Nebraska can build a resilient and dynamic workforce for the future, ensuring continued economic growth and stability for the state.

References:

[1] Lindsay Cates and Stephanie Ferguson.US Chamber of Commerce. “Understanding America’s Labor Shortage: The Most Impacted States”. https://www.uschamber.com/workforce/the-states-suffering-most-from-the-labor-shortage?state=ne

2 Jill Heese, MS. “2024 Nebraska Higher Education Progress Report”.https://ccpe.nebraska.gov/sites/default/files/PR_Presentation.pdf

3 EB3 Work. https://eb3.work/

4 USCIS. “Employment-Based Immigration: Third Preference EB-3”.https://www.uscis.gov/working-in-the-united-states/permanent-workers/employment-based-immigration-third-preference-eb-3

5 World Population Review. “Quality of Life by State 2024”.https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/quality-of-life-by-state

6 US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Employment-population ratio was 60.2 percent in January 2024”. https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2024/employment-population-ratio-was-60-2-percent-in-january-2024.htm