The Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development received approval from the Nevada Board of Examiners to contract with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) using $4 million to stand up a program to retain top science and engineering talent in Nevada.
“This idea was sparked by round table discussions I led with startup founders and entrepreneurs earlier this year alongside GOED leadership,” Governor Steve Sisolak said. “The challenge that was identified was the need for the state to support startups and technology companies by addressing their increasing need for science and engineering graduates. These funds will help develop a program with a long-term vision to assist our young engineering and science entrepreneurs.”
The program was initially approved by the Nevada Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee in October. The funding comes from a 2019 settlement with T-Mobile that included a charitable contribution of $30 million earmarked for enhancing entrepreneurial opportunities for women, minorities, and women and minority-owned businesses.
“This program will help bolster Nevada’s economy and help retain our pool of talented NSHE graduates,” Attorney General Aaron Ford said. “With this funding, both companies and students will receive the benefits of investment in our Nevada business community. I’d like to thank Gov. Sisolak’s Office of Economic Development for working with my office on this crucial project.”
“When I speak with the startup and entrepreneurial communities, we consistently hear about the severe talent shortage jeopardizing the growth of early-stage companies particularly in the technology sector with a specific shortage of engineering and computer science talent,” said Karsten Heise, GOED Senior Director of Strategic Programs and Innovation. “GOED’s research division analyzed data provided by NPWR and confirmed that talent in science and engineering is scarcer to begin with in our state but also there is also a much lower retention rate within a year after graduation compared to other fields of study. This is being further exacerbated when considering national census data for women and underrepresented minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers.”
Heise said that these groups represent a tremendous untapped talent resource and an incredible opportunity forgone. He pointed out that through this Talent Retention Program we will now have an active instrument in our hands to prevent a “Nevada Brain Drain” by pairing science and engineering students early with tech-based companies and startups via a program that is meaningful, targeted, and effective while paying a competitive wage of $18.per hour.
“Additional envisioned positive impacts are that this initiative will prompt more women and minority students to enroll in science and engineering degrees as well as what we call a ‘deferred founder’ effect: as Nevada is home to large numbers of first-generation college students who are understandably more risk-averse but as the result of their talent retention program experience will turn into startup founders after having spent an initial few years as employees at technology companies in Nevada. We are strongly encouraging technology-based companies to reach out to UNR and UNLV and explore how to engage and secure talent,” said Heise.
“This program is a true win-win for Nevada, as UNLV students will earn valuable workplace experience and emerging local businesses will gain an infusion of talent during the early stages of growth when they need it most,” said Zachary Miles, UNLV associate vice president for technology and partnerships. “I have no doubt that these internships will lead to career opportunities for our students, keeping them in our state as they develop into future leaders and crucial contributors to Nevada’s economy. Tech-based start-ups are essential in diversifying Southern Nevada’s economy.”
“University of Nevada, Reno students are eager to apply their knowledge to real-world experiences but getting connected to opportunities can be challenging for some students. This talent retention program will provide a new onramp to paid opportunities for our hard-working students to gain experience and build professional networks with startups and entrepreneurial tech companies and contribute to their success. And by connecting our students to cutting-edge experiences that are based right here, it can make ‘Home Means Nevada’ a reality for more of our graduates than ever before,” said Katia Albright, director of the Nevada Career Studio at the University of Nevada, Reno. “With the partnership of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada and UNR’s Applied Research Center, the Nevada Center for Applied Research (NCAR), also created and supported by GOED, I am confident our program will achieve meaningful success and employer outreach.”
Doug Erwin, Senior Vice President at EDAWN, has worked to establish a strong entrepreneurial start-up culture in Northern Nevada.
“We cannot continue to attract and grow technology companies without attracting and retaining our top technical talent.” Erwin said.” GOED’s Talent Retention Program helps address this by providing internships for our best and brightest students so they can work for our local technology firms. This gives students real world skills and employers the opportunity to attract the best emerging talent.”
About the Governor’s Office of Economic Development
Created during the 2011 session of the Nevada Legislature, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development is the result of a collaborative effort between the Nevada Legislature and the Governor’s Office to restructure economic development in the state. GOED’s role is to promote a robust, diversified and prosperous economy in Nevada, to stimulate business expansion and retention, encourage entrepreneurial enterprise, attract new businesses and facilitate community development.
For more information contact:
Gregory Bortolin, Director of Communications