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 fund a program to retain top science and engineering talent in Nevada.
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.
“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.