The homepage for Nebraska's Workforce Training Initiative.
The homepage for Nebraska’s Workforce Training Initiative.

As Nebraska and the country’s economy climbs back from the steep downturn it took following the early days of the pandemic, many workers are still finding it hard to find work.

While unemployment has dropped significantly, rates are still high compared to a year ago and have disproportionately affected certain populations, especially communities of color.

To bridge that gap, a state workforce development program is giving away $16 million in CARES Act to help put people in high-demand jobs.

The Nebraska Department of Economic Development will some of the money in the form of scholarships to help people pursue training and certifications at community colleges until the end of October. The other portion of the money is being used by Nebraska’s six community college systems to enhance existing programs, design new ones and train additional faculty.

The program, called the Workforce Retraining Initiative, has already helped 1,500 people whose livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic, according to a press release. Training programs will start soon with estimated completion dates running from Dec. 30 to May 31. 

You might be eligible for a scholarship if you:

  • became unemployed on or after March 13 due to COVID-19;
  • were unemployed between Jan. 1 and March 13 and now are unable to find a new job as a result of COVID-19;
  • work less than 40 hours a week due to COVID-19;
  • have temporary employment due to COVID-19 but want a permanent job;
  • got a new job after being furloughed or laid off on or after March 13 due to COVID-19 and make less money than before.

To apply for a scholarship, send an application to one of Nebraska’s six community colleges, which are collaborating with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development on this initiative.

Training programs may vary from college to college. Metro Community College lists more than 60 programs including programs in trade skills, public health and virtual reality design. There’s also 120 online programs admitted students can choose from, offered by schools across the state. Applicants do not have to live near any of the colleges or necessarily attend the one closest to them.

According to the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, scholarship amounts will range from school to school, but generally admitted students can expect about $1,100. Each school will also determine how that money can be spent, but it should be used for trainings to help people access new or better paying jobs.

In addition to scholarships and training programs, the initiative also ensures that students will receive career coaching services as well as guaranteed placement in an internship, apprenticeship or some kind of on-the-job learning.

If students drop their courses, they will no longer have access to the scholarship. Colleges may recover the cost of the scholarship for students who don’t complete the trainings, according to the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.

Those looking to apply should check each college’s deadlines, but applications for Workforce Retraining Initiative scholarships should be turned in by Oct. 31.

For more information, people can go online and read about the initiative as well as see frequently asked questions and a list of available courses.

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Chris Bowling

Chris has worked for The Reader since January 2020. As an investigative reporter and news editor he’s taken deep dives into topics such as police transparency, affordable housing and COVID-19. Originally...

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