Joshua Barker is like many first-year students — eager to get his college career started, but uncertain of how and when to begin pursuing opportunities in the professional world.
“I never had a job interview, but I had gone through interviews with a few schools. There’s quite a big difference between what schools are looking for and what employers want,” said Barker, a first-year computer engineering student from Auburn, Nebraska. “It’s very important to me because going from high school to college, I felt I didn’t know how to do some of these things or approach someone at a career fair.”
Held Aug. 12-14 on City Campus, the Nebraska Tech+Engineering Career Institute (NTECI) — a collaboration between the Nebraska Tech Collaborative and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s College of Engineering and Admissions and Career Services offices — gave 16 first-year students in tech fields a head start on their paths to a job or an internship.
The students from computer science, computer engineering and software engineering received tips on preparing resumes and gained experience in employment interviews and networking strategies through in-person and virtual interaction with Nebraska Engineering faculty and staff and with industry professionals. The students also earned credit for a required course, Engineering Sophomore Seminar (ENGR 20), before the fall semester officially began.
Jen Skidmore, director of student development in the College of Engineering, said NTECI is crucial in helping prepare students to succeed in college and in industry.
“Many of our first-year students are coming from out of state, and this program helps orient them to campus while introducing all the participants to key local tech employers,” Skidmore said. “The students get to learn from talented engineers about what it’s actually like to work in tech in this region and at these organizations.”
This experience will hopefully help students “build a network through these connections that they can lean on as they look for their first internships,” Skidmore said. “It is rare for a first-year student to have this many in-depth connections and information about top employers before classes even start.”
With the Lincoln-Omaha tech corridor — part of a region known as the “Silicon Prairie” — growing exponentially in the past decade, companies such as Buildertrend, Don’t Panic Labs, Flywheel, Mutual of Omaha and Nelnet have plenty of attractive opportunities for Nebraska students. Economic development representatives in both cities said NTECI provides a mutually beneficial opportunity for industry and students.
“The advantages of the super region — urban density, industry diversity, endless tech opportunities — are highly attractive to many workers,” said Sarah Moylan, senior director-talent for Select Greater Omaha. “NTECI is an exciting opportunity to leverage industry partners and attract and retain the highest caliber of talent coming out of the University system.”
“Lincoln is a growing community, and many of the leaders are helping to pave the way in both the engineering and tech industries. It’s important to attract talented workers early on in their college careers and retain them,” said Kaylie Hogan-Schnittker, director of talent strategy for Select Lincoln.
Barker said the NTECI has inspired him to get an early start in the employment process.
“It gives me more confidence,” Barker said. “They said it’s around now when some people start applying for internships, even freshmen, so I’ll probably start looking for one, too.”