Bridging the Employment Gap by Investing in Tomorrow’s Workforce, TODAY!

We need your help to build the workforce of the future and close the employment gap!

The Empowerment Network and City of Omaha in collaboration with community partners are working to provide opportunities for youth and young adults to gain valuable job training and work experience during the summer. We are working to provide jobs, internships, work experience, vocational training, career exploration, life skills training and leadership opportunities.

STEP-UP OMAHA! recruits, trains, and places prepared Omaha youth and young adults age 14 to 21, in mutually beneficial part-time and full-time summer and year-around employment and career exploration opportunities. STEP-UP OMAHA! builds on the Empowerment Network and its community partners’ successes in hiring and placing over 7,000 participants over the past fifteen years.

Based on their commitment to building a highly competitive workforce of the future, both the City of Omaha and the United Way of the Midlands have made significant investments to help expand the employment program. We would like to build on the program’s successes and connect 700 youth and young adults to work this summer and beyond. Employers over the past fifteen years have included non-profits, educational institutions, governmental agencies, and for-profit businesses.

STEP-UP OMAHA! a community-based initiative of the Empowerment Network funded in part by the City of Omaha and Charles E. Lakin Foundation in collaboration with community partners: Boys & Girls Club of the Midlands, Heartland Workforce Solutions, Hope Center for Kids, Metropolitan Community College, Omaha Housing Authority, Omaha Public Schools, Urban League of Nebraska and the United Way of the Midlands.

Step-Up Omaha Vision: We collaborate to bridge the employment gap and invest in the workforce of the future by recruiting, training, and preparing at-risk and career-minded youth and young adults in our community to make positive life choices, empowering them to fully maximize their personal potential through educational and career opportunities.


  • Ages 14-15 complete a Career Exploration program.
  • Ages 16-18 complete a work experience and jobs training program.
    • Workers will complete 2 weeks of employability training from June 5, 2023 through June 16, 2023.
    • Workers are available between June 19, 2023 – August 4, 2023 for worksite assignments.
    • Workers are available to work 20 hours per week.
    • Workers are paid a minimum of $10 per hour. (either by your organization or Step-Up Omaha!)
  • Ages 19-21 participate in Step-Up Omaha! Connect – a training and placement program.

Here are the four ways that you can invest in this vitally important initiative:

  1. Hire participants from the initiative and provide a high quality work experience
  2. Provide work experience opportunities that are subsidized or partially subsidized
  3. Sponsor participants financially. Participants will be placed on a separate work site
  4. Make a financial contribution to support the initiative


A partial list of current and past participants, contributors, and sponsors since 2008

100 Black Men
American Family Insurance
American National Bank
Bank of the West
BDM Windows
Bellevue University
Bemis Center
Benson Plant Rescue
Big Mama’s Kitchen
Black Bottom Biscotti
Blue Cross Blue Shield
C. B. Washington Branch Library
Charles Drew Health Center
CHI Health
City Sprouts
City of Omaha
ConAgra Brands
Cox Communications
Creighton University
Dairy Queen
Davis Companies
Douglas County Treasurer’s
Family Housing Advisory Services.
First Data
Habitat for Humanity
Heartland Workforce Solutions
Hilton Hotels
Holland Foundation
Holy Name Housing
Hope Center for Kids
Jimmy Johns
Kaplan University
Kelly’s Detail
Life Care
Lindsay Manufacturing
Lozier Foundation
Max I Walker
Methodist Hospital
Mutual of Omaha
National Park Service
Obama Foundation/MBK
Omaha Fire Dept.
Omaha Minority Community
Dev. Corp.
Omaha Police Department
Omaha Public Schools
Omaha Star
Omaha Steaks
Peter Kiewit Foundation
Physicians Mutual
Pinnacle Bank
Salem Baptist Church
Salvation Army
Security National Bank
South Omaha Business Assc.
Taco Johns
Turning Point
Union Pacific
Urban League of Nebraska
Weitz Foundation
Wells Fargo Bank
Woodmen Life

Comments from Leaders

“We invest more in Step-Up Omaha than any other job program in the city because we know it works. The job placements, training and development opportunities provided by Step-Up and our business community provide valuable experiences and opportunities and that’s exactly what all young people need, a chance to be successful. Step-Up also depends on the generous support of the business and philanthropic community to provide additional funds or jobs.” Mayor Jean Stothert | City of Omaha

“We are excited to be a part of the expansion of this jobs program. The Empowerment Network has been effective with this program for the last thirteen years. They have excellent connections to youth in the community and offer great support to employers. The youth participants are respectful and courteous. It’s wonderful to see their horizons expand as they are exposed to new work challenges.”John Kotouc Executive Chairman – American National Bank | First Business Partner of the Jobs Program

“One of the greatest strengths of the United States is its diversity. At the same time, this diversity has been underused as a resource. We also know over the years there’s been a shortage of African-Americans and people of color in senior management and executive suites in Omaha and the Council Bluffs area. The Empowerment Network’s Step-Up Omaha program is one vital tool to addressing this long term. It shows our youth what is available right here at home.” Steve Wild | President – Charles E. Lakin Foundation

“We’re not asking for a charitable contribution, we’re asking you to invest in the people that will potentially be able to stay with you, your organization, develop a career, it’s good for the community and good for your business.” – John Ewing | Douglas County Treasurer and Empowerment Network Board Chair

“We will keep more of our talent here when we invest and show them what’s possible for them in Omaha. We know that what they see is what they will be. Why not get more businesses engaged and reach as many as 1,000 youth? That’s our challenge.” – Councilman Ben Gray | City of Omaha

“UNMC is a proud participant in Step-Up Omaha. I would encourage all Omaha-area organizations and businesses to look at participating in this program, which is crucial to building a highly competitive workforce that is reflective of the communities we serve.” – Dr. Jeffrey P. Gold | Chancellor – UNMC