Bridging the workforce gap necessitates creative solutions. CAREEROCKIT is a promising workforce program for the region aimed at making connections between the business and educational communities to ensure current and future talent needs are met.
The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce developed the program in partnership with the Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce and other business professionals and community partners. The ambitious goal: to bring 10,000 career experiences to students in Greater Omaha over a 1-week period.
The first CAREEROCKIT event in April exceeded expectations. The Council Bluffs Chamber, staff from area schools and business professionals collaborated to offer students opportunities to explore local career options. More than 5,000 career experiences were provided in Council Bluffs alone!
The Council Bluffs Chamber worked jointly with staff from area schools to brainstorm about the best way to offer career experiences. According to Lori Shields, head of marketing and workforce development at the chamber, transportation was one of the primary challenges.
“To get students into the different workplaces requires busses, and it costs a lot to provide busses. Plus the travel time is empty learning time. We asked ‘How can we bring employers to students — and eliminate downtime and transportation needs,’” says Shields.
One high tech solution involved a GoPro camera-led tour of a workplace with a livestream video feed. This gave high school students a virtual tour and a chance to ask questions. These creative solutions provided a greater impact with many more students being able to explore particular careers.
A number of businesses and professionals also visited Council Bluffs middle schools to speak to students about a day in the life of their respective positions. Every student got a chance to hear from two professionals. Among those represented were doctors, engineers, marketers, firefighters, police officers and more.
Utility line workers from MidAmerican Energy were on hand — they even brought equipment and a boom truck. Shields says students were intrigued by this career choice. “We all know we need power but students don’t typically think about the fact that there are people who leave their houses during storms to go and get the power back on for others.”
CAREEROCKIT’s proactive solution to the skills gap holds promise for the future. Students, schools and businesses were all pleased with the inaugural event.
“Everyone really enjoyed it,” says Shields. “We’d like to keep doing it every year. I’d like to see us offer opportunities like this to students all year round.”
Based out of Council Bluffs, IA Echo Group Inc. was formed when two independent electrical distributors collectively doing business since 1950, joined their operations in 2000.
Through the acquisitions of other electrical distributors, motor shops, lighting showrooms, and the expansion of electrical distribution facilities, Echo Group Inc. now provides sales and support for Iowa, Nebraska, Southeast South Dakota and Southwest Minnesota, for contractors in the region today.
Fremont Contract Carriers, Inc. was established in 1966 and is a premier transportation and logistics company, with coverage throughout the United States and Canada. Our organization, based out of Fremont, NE, offers a wide range of transportation services including; dedicated, medium to long-haul van, Midwest regional, local van capacity and flatbed. Fremont Contract Carriers, through its subsidiary company FCC Transportation Services, offers truck brokerage.
FCC operates approximately 315 trucks, 700 high-cubed dry vans and 100 flatbed, curtain-side, and step-deck trailers.
The primary commodities hauled by FCC are food grade products, consumer products, retail products, construction and manufactured products as well as packaging and grocery products.
“Our long-term success is directly linked to our ability to consistently meet our customer’s requirements and exceed their expectations”
Youth sports aren’t just about athletic ability. Participating in sports is a formative experience for a child. Sports teach kids about teamwork; they provide lessons about success and failure. Participating in sports builds skills that last a lifetime.
When residents of Council Bluffs, Iowa identified a need for indoor recreation opportunities in their area, Iowa West Foundation, a local nonprofit with a long record of investing in the community, came up with a unique plan that would benefit not just youth, but the whole community.
“It was important to find a model that allowed affordable or free access to local teams and club groups in the community,” says Iowa West Foundation CEO Pete Tulipana. “The primary challenge was figuring out how to make such a facility sustainable. We decided to build a facility that could generate significant revenue and economic development through regional and national tournaments.”
The resulting, Iowa West Field House opened in January. Located next to the Mid-America Center, it’s a 66,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility featuring eight basketball and twelve volleyball courts. The Field House meets the access residents lobbied for — and so much more.
In addition to providing space for local teams and clubs, the facility will host sports clinics, camps and regional tournaments. “There are not many facilities like this in the country — and certainly not in our region,” says Tulipana.
More than 36 million kids in the U.S. between the ages of 5 and 18 play an organized sport each year. Families commonly travel for sports activities, which results in overnight hotel stays as well as spending on restaurants and other activities. Youth sports travel is now a $7 billion industry.
The Field House, managed by the Omaha Sports Academy, is already helping to draw tourists to Council Bluffs. Early reports indicated it had 12 tournaments scheduled between April and August as well as 30 weekends through December booked up with programming.
When combined with the full-service Courtyard by Marriot hotel, now under construction nearby, the Field House is poised to become an important driver of economic development in the underutilized Mid-America Center area.
The MAC already brings in thousands of people each week for concerts and conventions — up to 20,000 people on the busiest weekends. But many of the retail spaces in the center are vacant. The added influx of sports players and fans should catalyze additional development of restaurants, entertainment venues and other businesses.
The hope is that the Field House, retail spaces and hotel will form a symbiotic relationship to help grow businesses and attract additional visitors. The long-term goal is to build a thriving entertainment district that draws people from throughout the region to stay and play in Council Bluffs.
As our entrepreneurial ecosystem evolves, breakout success stories emerge, and a new crop of entrepreneurs feels emboldened to launch their ventures here – a place that values collaboration, innovation and acceleration.