Empowerment Network expands to help Omaha youth join workforce

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- Over the past 12 years, the Empowerment Network has introduced 5,000 young people to the workforce, helping them find summer jobs.

Some of those jobs lead to full-time work. And now the organization has plans to do even more work to help more young people.

Not only is the Empowerment Network’s Step Up program helping young people find jobs, but it’s also helping young people start businesses.

The Step Up program is also helping young people like Daymien Fitzpatrick with their career plans.

“Some guidance is probably the number one thing anybody could use to get more interest in what they want to do in their career and life,” Fitzpatrick said.

Daymien lives in Council Bluffs and hopes the program’s expansion across the river can help him.

Willie Barney and his Empowerment Network are also expanding the scope of their employment opportunities, teaming up with Metropolitan Community College, looking for jobs in the trades and expanding internships.

All of this expansion is sparked by major donations, like $1 million from the City of Omaha.

Mayor Jean Stothert said they placed ten interns in city departments and will offer that opportunity again this year.

And the largest private investment in the history of the program is $1.8 million from the Charles E. Lakin Foundation.

Steve Wild, president of the foundation, said they could not think of a better place to invest their money than with the Empowerment Network.

The network does not plan to stop its expansion at Council Bluffs.

“I could see us in a few years being in 10 to 20 cities, working with them to replicate the Empowerment Network model, the Step Up model, Omaha 360 and others,” Barney said. “You can move the dial but you're not going to do it with one organization. You’re not going to do it with one business. Collectively is the way it gets done.”

The Empowerment Network has plans to meet with the Council Bluffs School District to discuss laying the foundation for its programs.