Nebraska’s new internship program to be led by Aksarben Foundation under $20 million state contract
OMAHA — Bolstered by a $20 million state contract, the Aksarben Foundation is to lead a new internship program aimed at strengthening Nebraska’s future workforce.
Gov. Jim Pillen announced the partnership with the State Department of Economic Development Thursday at the Aksarben Foundation’s annual stakeholders meeting in La Vista.
He said that many Nebraska employers are generating jobs faster than they can fill them and that the “InternNE, Powered by Aksarben” program is designed to better train and retain young Nebraskans.
“The state’s workforce development strategy begins with recruiting in our own backyard,” Pillen said. “We want our graduates to stay in Nebraska to start a career here in the ‘good life.’ “
The nonprofit Aksarben Foundation, a network of business and community leaders, was awarded the $20 million contract, to span two years, through a competitive bidding process, foundation officials said.
Dan Curran, who recently resigned as deputy director of programs at the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, has been hired as executive director of the internship program.
State officials said the program expands upon previous state efforts, and is funded through Legislative Bill 1012 that last year allocated $20 million from the cash reserve fund.
A goal is to connect students to mentors and positions that offer exposure to high-growth, high-wage careers.
“We are upping our in-state recruitment efforts of these high-potential leaders,” said Sandra Reding, Aksarben Foundation president. “Our business-led model equips employers to design clear pathways connecting students to rewarding careers in Nebraska.”
Reding said that investing in the next generation of Nebraska talent is one of the “smartest bets” the state can make. She said Nebraska-raised youth are taught a strong work ethic and that they value civic engagement.
This partnership is going to elevate the state’s internship initiative to an entirely new level of effectiveness.
The foundation has a track record of tackling workforce challenges, through initiatives such as the Nebraska Tech Collaborative, launched in 2019, and Northeast Nebraska Growing Together, launched in 2018.
It also awards nearly $1 million annually in scholarships to support students in post-secondary studies at Nebraska colleges and universities.
“The wealth of experience Aksarben brings to the table, in terms of attracting and developing talent, is a tremendous asset,” said DED interim director Joe Fox. “This partnership is going to elevate the state’s internship initiative to an entirely new level of effectiveness.”
Under InternNE, companies will be able to apply for grants to cover such costs as tuition reimbursement, administration, transportation and housing. The program is slated to begin taking applications this fall.
Other speakers at the foundation’s meeting Thursday included Nebraska University president Ted Carter, Matt Blomstedt, former Nebraska Education Commissioner and Shonna Dorsey, executive director of Nebraska Tech Collaborative.