New effort by Nebraska business leaders to address the national worker shortage

Nebraska plans to address the worker shortage
Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 7:04 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A new effort is underway to help ease the worker shortage in Nebraska.

State business leaders are coming together to push for change at a national level.

“We have 50,000 to 80,000 jobs in Nebraska today that we can’t fill because we don’t have the workers,” said President of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce Bryan Slone.

Slone says in his view, the worker shortage problem is mainly a culmination of declining birth rates in the U.S. and the baby boomer generation retiring.

“You put those things together and we suddenly have a very large shortage of workers.”

Slone says fixing the problem starts with making it easier for refugees and legal immigrants to work in the U.S.

“Great, great people, great working skills, great families. It takes them 6 to 9 months to get a work visa,” said Slone. “There’s transportation issues because right now Nebraska doesn’t grant them driver’s licenses.”

Slone says the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce is forming a broad coalition of industry and interest groups to push for overhauling the country’s immigration system.

Slone says it is not political.

“This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s not an urban versus rural,” he said. “There’s broad support for fixing the visa system so we will be in Washington several times over the course of the next year.”

Tarig Maki, a refugee from Sudan, says it took him nearly a year to find a job in his field. He has two master’s degrees but started in the U.S. workforce as a cashier at Walmart.

“It’s very hard to get a job, as my experience. I have a lot of experience, but I have to start from zero,” Maki said.

Maki also had to find affordable housing and childcare. Both are issues the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce also plan to face head-on in 2023.

The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce also plans to work on increasing student enrollment in colleges and universities and making Nebraska more of a technology state.