A gubernatorial news conference to proclaim October as Manufacturing Month in Nebraska morphed Monday into a call for Nebraska youth to consider manufacturing and technology careers that do not require a traditional four-year journey through college.
"We need the rock stars," Scott Volk, vice president of MetalQuest, which manufactures precision-machined component parts in Hebron, said during the Capitol event.
In sharp contrast to the old image of manufacturing as a "dead-end and dirty (job) for the dumb kid," Volk said, today's manufacturing jobs engage workers with computers and robots and require science and math skills.
"You can get paid far more money and have a more challenging career (in manufacturing) without getting a four-year degree" that often comes loaded with college loans and long-term student debt, he said.
Those manufacturing jobs in Nebraska pay an average annual salary of $58,500, Joseph Young, executive vice president for the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce's Vision Nebraska program, said.
Gov. Pete Ricketts summoned the news conference to salute the manufacturing sector in Nebraska and announced he will embark on a statewide tour to celebrate the event.
Department of Economic Development Director Courtney Dentlinger said the governor has scheduled stops in Grand Island, Sidney, Gering, Alliance, Holdrege, Minden and Omaha.
"We grow things and we make things" in Nebraska, Ricketts said.
"And tax relief will help us spur growth," he said.
Volk, who is chair of the Nebraska Manufacturing Advisory Council, said "the current tax burden does not allow us to reinvest as we would like" in equipment and higher wages.
Ricketts also called for reduced regulation and controlled government spending.