TechHire Nebraska Initiative Unveiled in Kearney; 500 entry-level IT jobs by 2020 – Kearney Hub: Local
By AMANDA BRANDT Hub Staff Writer Kearney Hub
KEARNEY — A long-term plan to shape central Nebraska into a hub for the information technology sector was announced Wednesday afternoon in Kearney.
The TechHire Nebraska initiative was formally unveiled at an afternoon press conference. It includes a goal of training, hiring and placing 500 entry-level IT professionals by 2020.
If you look at the population of Nebraska, that’s a pretty aggressive plan and a pretty aggressive path,” said Paul Eurek, president of Xpanxion and member of a steering committee leading the project.
The plan is part of a national campaign that aims take people with little to no experience in the technology sector and quickly train them for an entry-level IT job. Twenty-one communities were selected to participate in the program.
The TechHire Nebraska initiative will roll out in three phases, Eurek explained. The first is a pilot version of the program, in which four non-traditional candidates will be selected and trained to become an entry-level quality-assurance analyst. The training and apprenticeship process will occur at Xpanxion’s Kearney facility. The first phase will be completed in early December.
Then, the steering committee will evaluate the pilot program and recommend changes before it is launched and expanded. Other companies and partners will be brought into the training and hiring plan at that point.
The program’s third phase will be a business incubator in which TechHire participants can get space and support to grow technology startup companies.
“That’s where wealth is developed, and that’s where great things will happen,” Eurek said. The incubator program could begin as soon as the end of 2017.
The incubator plan is unique to the Kearney/Buffalo County initiative, said Sally Smyth, the director for business development for Opportunity@Work, a civic enterprise that is spearheading TechHire initiatives across the country.
“We think this program is a standout, a model that can be adopted in other places around the country,” Smyth said Wednesday before a group of community leaders and elected officials.
Eurek said Xpanxion has been training and placing employees for many years, but the TechHire program makes two changes to the company’s current process: seeking out non-traditional candidates and training them quickly within 90-120 days.
The target population for the endeavor will be people who have household incomes of less than $25,000 a year, have little or no continued education, or are minorities. People who are interested in applying for the program can do so at www.techhirenebraska.com
Wood River native Michael Wortman knows firsthand how beneficial changing to a job in the IT sector can be. Wortman, who lives in Kearney with his family, spent more than 20 years in the military and managed a local chain restaurant for 10 years.
Wortman said he needed a change in life and learned of an opportunity at Xpanxion. He said there are quite a few Xpanxion employees like him who switch careers with no previous knowledge of IT work.
“It’s a great job, it’s going great,” Wortman said. He works in the quality assurance department. “I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity,”
Pledging their support for the initiative were representatives from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Central Community College, Speaker of the Legislature Galen Hadley of Kearney and Kearney Mayor Stan Clouse. Other partners in the project are the Economic Development Council of Buffalo County, Invest Nebraska, the Nebraska Department of Labor and the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.