Incoming UNK students can apply for the Nebraska Career Scholarship here. The application deadline is Feb. 28.
By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Like many states across the country, Nebraska continues to face workforce shortages, with critical needs in STEM and health care.
Nebraska will have more than 34,000 annual openings in high-skill, high-demand, high-wage jobs in the next five years, according to the state’s Department of Labor, with most of those positions requiring higher education.
Initiatives like the Nebraska Career Scholarship program, which focuses on training and retaining young talent, are key to the state’s future success.
Established by Gov. Pete Ricketts and approved by the Legislature in August 2020, the Nebraska Career Scholarship program supports college students from Nebraska pursuing undergraduate degrees in high-growth, high-demand areas such as computer science, cybersecurity, health care, communication disorders, information technology, mathematics and veterinary medicine.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney began awarding these scholarships for the spring 2021 semester, with nearly $150,000 available for allocation each year.
Incoming freshmen and transfer students in the qualifying fields of study are eligible to receive a Nebraska Career Scholarship, which are renewable and worth up to $25,000 per year. Scholarship funds may be used for tuition, fees, room and board or relevant tools and equipment. Recipients are asked to complete a Nebraska-based internship, apprenticeship, clinical position or other work related to their career before graduation.
“Not only do these scholarship funds increase the attractiveness for high-ability students to stay in Nebraska for their higher education, but the program connects them with internships that build their experience and relationships with Nebraska employers,” said Kelly Bartling, UNK vice chancellor for enrollment management and marketing. “These incentives are attractive to students and are helping meet Nebraska employers’ workforce needs.”
SERVING THE STATE
Sydney Kinnett is one of 12 UNK students currently benefiting from the Nebraska Career Scholarship program.
The Utica native has worked as a certified nursing assistant at CHI Health Good Samaritan since April, a few months after she transferred to UNK from Northwest Missouri State and enrolled in the pre-nursing program.
“Obviously, there’s a growing demand for nurses,” she said. “After working in the hospital and seeing how much COVID has impacted the entire health care field, you realize how short we are.”
The latest report from the Nebraska Center for Nursing shows nearly 4,200 more nurses are needed to meet statewide demand, with that shortfall expected to approach 5,500 positions by 2025 – a figure equivalent to 19% of the current workforce.
Intensified by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and an aging population that requires additional health care, this shortage is most severe in small towns and rural areas, where several counties don’t have any registered or licensed practical nurses.
Following in the footsteps of her mother Katie, a former nurse who now teaches at Southeast Community College in Lincoln, Kinnett plans to pursue a nursing career so she can make a positive impact while serving the state.
“I just want to be able to help people,” she said.
Kinnett receives $10,000 per year through the Nebraska Career Scholarship program. That money is “super important” for the UNK sophomore, who says she can focus on coursework instead of worrying about finances. She’ll finish her pre-nursing classes this spring and start the undergraduate nursing program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Kearney Division next fall.
“The Nebraska Career Scholarship presented me with an opportunity I would not have otherwise had,” Kinnett said. “This program is a big benefit to me, as well as other students looking to pursue a degree in health care.”
The following academic programs are part of the Nebraska Career Scholarship program:
Health information management
Long-term care management
Medical laboratory science
Software quality assurance