2 companies chosen for Nebraska Gov. Ricketts' new initiative to expand skilled workforce

Two central Nebraska companies have been chosen to participate in Gov. Pete Ricketts' initiative to expand the state's skilled workforce, the governor said Tuesday.

Ricketts announced that Flowserve Corporation, of Hastings, and Hollman Media LLC, of Kearney, will each receive a $125,000 grant through the Nebraska Developing Youth Talent Initiative.

Ricketts announced the program in his State of the State speech to lawmakers in January as a way to lure young people into manufacturing and technology careers by connecting public schools with the private sector. The Department of Economic Development began accepting applications in July and selected the two companies from 10 that applied.

The program is designed to give hands-on experience to students in the seventh and eighth grades. Ricketts said it could expand once state officials gain experience managing it and working with companies.

"I do see this as something that is not only going to help Hastings and Kearney, but something where we can foster this idea of bringing the private sector into our schools and curriculum to ensure we have the right trained and skilled workforce," Ricketts said during a news conference at the Capitol.

Flowserve Corporation is the leading business in a consortium of Hastings-area companies that are working with Hastings Public Schools and Central Community College. Holman Media LLC is an information technology company and application developer that plans to expose more than 1,000 students to careers in its field.

Hollman Media plans to bring students to its facility and work with them to develop an application that will solve a problem in their school, said company President Travis Hollman.

"This is going to be a successful program, and it's going to be great for our state," Hollman said.

Businesses in Hastings have already been working with area schools to promote science and technology courses in hopes of boosting its workforce, said Robert Wilson, general manager of Flowserve.

"The timing of this grant is perfect," Wilson said. "It will allow us to buy the necessary equipment and make the necessary curriculum changes to accomplish our goals at the middle school much sooner than originally anticipated."

Nebraska faces a worker shortage in manufacturing and technology, and the jobs that are available require greater skills than in the past, said Brenda Hicks-Sorensen, director of the Department of Economic Development.

"Meeting workforce demands will require innovative approaches to develop a youth talent pipeline," she said. "This initiative is a step forward, laying the groundwork for that pipeline."