OMAHA, Neb. — A local nonprofit is working to keep the state's young workforce in Nebraska.

The Aksarben Foundation was recently awarded a $20 million state contract to lead an internship program aimed at helping small businesses attract workforce while providing internships for college students.

“We want to maintain students,” InternNE Executive Director Dan Curran said. “We want to maintain our talent, and we have this vehicle, this internship opportunity, to help particularly small businesses, to elevate the internship experience in order to keep students in Nebraska. That helps our business community and helps with community leadership.”

The program, InternNE Powered by Aksarben, will connect students to internships that are created by local businesses. Additionally, the program will provide grant money to those businesses to cover associated costs like intern wages, tuition, housing and recruitment.

“We'll put resources around the program to help with small businesses that don't have sophisticated HR departments,” Curran added. “Help them with the creation of a good internship program so that students have a good experience.”

The Aksarben Foundation won the bid to lead the InternNE program with the legislature allocating $20 million of funding for the next two years. The program was previously overseen by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. Now the two entities are working together as partners.

“We've always focused on ‘how do we make the state better, how do we strengthen the state,’” Aksarben Foundation President Sandra Reding said. “We have that history. We've been out in those communities, and we think this is another way that we can be of use to the state.”

Curran said there's plenty of buy in on the academic side with a majority of Nebraska's universities, state colleges and community colleges already on board.

“I think everybody has the same goal in mind. They put a lot of resources around students and, they have a lot of investment in that. When your best talents out there this gives us a better chance to have the next great company get formed here in Nebraska.”

InternNE, Powered by Aksarben’s website is expected to launch this fall.