America's manufacturing sector will need almost 3.5 million jobs to be filled overthe coming decade, the National Association of Manufacturers estimates.

There's a catch, though: Successful applicants will need training in advanced skills.

In some cases, that means getting up to speed in understanding and using advanced math. In other cases, computer software or chemistry. In still others, operation of high-tech equipment.

Nebraska is working to meet the need. The Nebraska "Dream It, Do It" coalition of manufacturers and educators has been focusing on workforce preparedness since 2005.

School systems are working with industry and community colleges to create career academies where young people can receive training for industry. Metropolitan Community College is developing its new Center for Advanced and Emerging Technologies, and Northeast Community College recently opened its Applied Technology Building.

Gov. Pete Ricketts' administration has contributed by winning approval in the Legislature last year for competitive grants to promote advanced skills training. U.S. Rep. Brad Ashford is promoting similar legislation at the federal level.

Nebraska's program, called the Developing Youth Talent Initiative, provides financial assistance of up to $125,000 each to two eligible businesses a year on a competitive basis. The companies provide students hands-on experience in the manufacturing or information technology sectors.

The state is now accepting applications for the next round of grants. The webpage is at http:// www.neded.org/business/talent-a-innovation-initiative/nebraska-developing-youth-talent-initiative.

It's a worthy cause for the future of the students and for the future of Nebraska's economy.

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