GI and UNL Recruiting Kids with Big City Dreams to Small Towns


An engineering degree opens doors like no other. But when you can make $60,000 straight out of college, following the money often means leaving Nebraska.

"Moving around would be nice. Been in Omaha all my life, so something outside wouldn't be bad," student Ray Gaytan said.

And when Ray says outside Omaha, central Nebraska isn't what he means. University of Nebraska engineering freshmen have big aspirations.

David Williams is director of retention for UNL's College of Engineering. He said, "A lot of students will look to bigger cities like Kansas City, or Chicago, or Denver, or Minneapolis and don't think about places like Grand Island."

Even in a growing city of 50,000, employers say they have to work harder to recruit good talent. Just ask Assistant Utilities Director Lynn Mayhew.

He said, "Small towns have engineering opportunities also, and we need to make them aware of those opportunities."

So the UNL Engineering Day serves two purposes. Grand Island hosted 550 freshmen before they're recruited for internships.

And entry level students learn what they've signed up for.

Williams said, "We really find it's important for our students to see what engineers are doing, see that light at the end of the tunnel and get them motivated for a future career."

That light at the end of the tunnel could be at Grand Island's power plant among dozens of employers.

"We showcase what industry is here," Travis Toline of Global Industries said. "There's quite a bit of industry in Grand Island, give these guys a taste of what's in Nebraska, outside Lincoln and Omaha for potential jobs. "

They're trying to reach kids like Ray before they climb the corporate ladder.

His goal for the day was simple.

"I'm looking around, see what I like to do best, what interests me most. This was a pretty good tour, get a feel for what there is to do," he said.

Surveys show a lot of kids major in engineering, not knowing what it is. University officials hope this will also motivate kids to stick with it.