New effort by Nebraska business leaders to address national worker shortage

OMAHA, Nebraska (WOWT) – A new effort is underway to help alleviate Nebraska’s worker shortage.

State business leaders came together to push for change across the country.

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

Sloan said that, in his view, the labor shortage problem is largely a result of declining U.S. birth rates and the retirement of baby boomers.

“You put those things together and all of a sudden we have a very serious shortage of workers.”

Slone says solving the problem starts with making it easier for refugees and legal immigrants to work in the US

“Great people, great job skills, great family. It takes them six to nine months to get a work visa,” Slone said. “There’s a traffic problem because right now Nebraska doesn’t give them a driver’s license.”

Sloan said the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce is assembling a broad coalition of industry and interest groups to push for reform of the state’s immigration system.

Sloan said it wasn’t politics.

“This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. This is not urban versus rural,” he said. “There is broad support for fixing the visa system, so we will be visiting Washington several times over the next year.”

Tarig Maki, a refugee from Sudan, said it took him almost a year to find work in his field. He has two master’s degrees, but started working in the US as a cashier at Walmart.

“From my experience, it was very difficult to find a job. I had a lot of experience, but I had to start from scratch,” Maki said.

Maki also had to find affordable housing and childcare. The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce plans to tackle both issues head-on in 2023, too.

The Nebraska Chamber of Commerce also plans to work to increase student enrollment at colleges and universities and make Nebraska more of a tech state.

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