In 2015, a Nebraska Chamber of Commerce Survey of 1,200 employers found that 52% had experienced difficulty hiring qualified employees within the previous year, and one fourth said that limited availability of labor and skilled employees was limiting growth. A number of states, including Nebraska, face workforce shortages in technical job fields that require skills certificates. Despite these shortages, no state or federal aid existed for non-credit community college courses and skills certificates. This created problems both for the economy at large, and individuals. On the state level, it restricted economic growth. On the individual level, it shut employees out from a variety of well-paying careers.
The Community College Gap Assistance program addresses workforce needs through financial aid to lower-income students taking non-credit courses, helping them to build the 21st century skills they need to work in competitive industries. Skills certificates and degrees have a proven return for employees that seek them. We’re taking a proven way to create career opportunities, work certificates and degrees, and aid is focused on training for industries experiencing workforce shortages. Furthermore, after completing the program, those that have degrees can continue through the career ladder and have a greater ability to pursue an associate's degree or field-specific training.
Nebraska's effort builds on Iowa’s success by expanding eligibility so low-income adults can apply. By expanding gap assistance program eligibility, more workers can gain access to in-demand jobs and Nebraska leverages our existing under-employed workforce.