Bureau of Business Research


Date of this Version



Bureau of Business Research, 2018. Lincoln Skills Gap Report: Final. Report for the Nebraska Department of Labor (June).


In recent months, the Nebraska Departments of Labor and Economic Development have led efforts to conduct two surveys regarding the skills of workers and skill needs of employers in the Lincoln area. The surveys were conducted during late 2017 and early 2018. The Lincoln area includes the two counties of the Lincoln Metropolitan Area (Lancaster and Seward), all or most of five surrounding southeast Nebraska counties (Gage, Jefferson, Saline, Saunders, and York) and a portions of 4 other adjacent counties (Butler, Cass, Fillmore, and Otoe). The two surveys are the Lincoln Area Labor Availability Survey and the Lincoln Area Survey of Hiring and Training Needs. The current study utilizes the results of both surveys as well as secondary data about the Lincoln area to summarize information about job skills and whether a local skills gap is present. A skills gap is present if it is difficult for a large share of employers to hire in a particular occupation and there is also a persistent gap between the demand for new workers and the number of individuals entering that occupation. Key questions include: In what part of the labor force, if any, is a skills gap present? And, is the skills gap the result of a lack of education and training opportunities, or are other factors at work? Results of the study suggest that over the next decade the annual flow of individuals into the workforce in the Lincoln area will exceed the projected annual job openings due to net job growth and worker replacement. This annual surplus is present due to the large number of students who graduate from area universities, colleges and community colleges, implying that there would be an abundance of new workers trained for white collar occupations. Indeed, there is a significant surplus of entrants to openings in entry level white collar occupations in the Lincoln Metropolitan Area even as deficits persist in blue collar and service occupations. Among blue collar occupations, there is an annual deficit for construction and extraction workers, production workers and transportation and material moving workers. There is an annual deficit for all service occupations except protective service workers. Large annual deficits are found for sales workers and food preparation and serving related workers. Among service and blue collar occupations, these annual deficits are further magnified because a significant share workers are difficult to hire due to a “poor work history” (which typically means frequent job changes) or an inability to pass a background check. For white collar occupations, the challenge is keeping a sufficiently large share of graduates in Lincoln to fill open positions. For the more highly skilled occupations with a deficit of workers, potential employees can be prepared through enhanced training, education, internship and apprenticeship opportunities developed through collaboration between employers, training entities and other education institutions. These enhanced learning opportunities should be combined with additional efforts to inform secondary school students, and their parents, about the earnings and other opportunities afforded by these occupations. State government and local organizations also may choose to support education, training and apprenticeships, perhaps by sharing the cost of these activities with employers. ...

Taken together, these results indicate that skills gap challenges have increased in the Lincoln area labor market as the local economy has continued to grow. A rising share of workers are concerned that they do not have adequate training to find better employment. Employers have grown slightly more concerned about applicants with a poor work history and an inability to pass a background check. Concerns about wage levels have risen slightly for both employers and workers.