As the Empowerment Network’s Step-Up Omaha! employment program moves into its 17th year, it continues to build on its successes.  Step-Up Omaha has expanded its reach city-wide and working with both community and businesses partners, the team has connected more than 8,000 youth and young adults, ages 14-21, with career exploration, job training, and internships since its inception. 

Thousands of Step-Up Omaha alumni have graduated from high school, entered and completed college and gained part-time and full-time work.  Some alumni have made the jump into entrepreneurship.

Summer employment has been proven to be a vital component to engaging youth and putting them on the right path to long-term career success. Local and national research points to the importance of linking youth and young adults with job experiences to establish a positive relationship between education, work and generating income. 

What was once a summer employment program only, has evolved into a year-round initiative with specialized cohorts, career exploration and job training available to participants.

With the valuable financial support of the City of Omaha, Charles E. Lakin Foundation, United Way, Office of Violence Prevention, businesses, local and national foundations including the Obama Foundation, Weitz Family Foundation, Mutual of Omaha, Google, Cox Communications and community residents, Step-Up Omaha has expanded in measurable ways this year.

Participants ages 14-15 in the Step-Up Omaha Explore program participate in amazing career immersion experiences including:  (On-site visits in 2024 will be determined with the consultation of health professionals and pending the status of COVID-19 protocols)

  • Health Careers – CHI Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Charles Drew Health Center
  • Arts, Culture, History and Entertainment – Union for Contemporary Arts, Malcolm X, NOMA, Great Plains Black History Museum & El Museo Latino
  • IT/STEM Careers – Metropolitan Community College PROTO Lab
  • Government – Mayor’s Office, City Council, County Commissioners, County Treasurer, Planning Department
  • Law Enforcement, Fire Safety and Criminal Justice – Omaha Police Department, Douglas County Jail and Douglas County Attorney’s Office, City Attorney’s Office, Omaha Fire Department, U.S. Probations Office
  • Sports, Events, and Hospitality – TD Ameritrade, CenturyLink Center and MECA
  • Agriculture and Food Production – No More Empty Pots, Permaculture
  • Entrepreneurship – SocialPreneur Lab,  Boys & Girls Club’s Career Launch Program
  • Business and Corporate Executive Leadership – WoodmenLife
  • Trades Construction, Culinary, Automotive,– OPS Career Center
  • College Visits – UNO, Metropolitan Community College, Bellevue University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Participants ages 15-21 in the Step-Up Omaha Jobs, Careers, and Intern program gained valuable work experience at over 80 work sites, including American National Bank, CHI Health, UNMC, City of Omaha, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, WoodmenLife, Omaha Public Schools, Omaha Police Department, Jimmy Johns, Arby’s and others. Interns worked in jobs and internship positions ranging from banking, information technology, and healthcare to landscaping, construction and child development.

In addition to worksite experiences, Step-Up has intentionally and purposely grown to include more STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) opportunities through cohorts:  OSHA Certification, Construction, Drones, Food Entrepreneurship, Mask Making, Production, Fashion Design, Social Media, IT, Coding and Marketing.

Participants ages 19-21 in the Step-Up Omaha Connect program worked full time and part time in opportunities with the potential of long-term employment. Some participants made as much as $14 to $15 or more per hour for the summer and earned opportunities to stay on with their employer as they proved themselves to be valuable assets.

The vision of the Step-Up Omaha! program is collaborating to bridge the employment gap and invest in the workforce of the future by recruiting, training, and preparing 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.

Businesses and organizations interested in learning more or becoming a sponsor and/or work-site can go to for more information.

Step-Up Omaha! is an initiative of the Empowerment Network in collaboration with the City of Omaha. Community partners include: Boys & Girls Club of the Midlands, Girls Inc, Heartland Workforce Solutions, Hope Center for Kids, Metropolitan Community College, Omaha Public Schools, Urban League of Nebraska and the United Way of the Midlands.

Internships:  City of Omaha, University of Nebraska at Omaha, CHI Health and others

Career Cohorts:  Drones, Construction, Entrepreneurship, Culinary, STEAM and more.

Career Exploration with Television and Video Production and Film

Mock City Council Presentation with City Councilmen, Elected Officials and Governmental Leaders

Mock Interviews with Employers

On the Job Training and Career Exploration Program with CHI Health