Archive for Monday, September 25, 2017

Kansas facing severe shortage of technically trained workers

Kansas Department of Labor

Kansas Department of Labor

September 25, 2017, 11:14 a.m. Updated September 25, 2017, 2:22 p.m.


— Kansas needs to take quick action to fill thousands of jobs in technical or advanced manufacturing industries or those companies might consider moving the jobs elsewhere, civic and business leaders said.

Kansas Department of Labor data show the state had 45,000 job vacancies in 2016, with 3.2 of every 100 jobs being vacant and half of those vacancies lasting more than 30 days or staying open.

The Wichita Eagle spoke to dozens of leaders who said companies such as Spirit AeroSystems or Textron Aviation, which employ thousands of people in Wichita, are desperate for workers, and the problem is only expected to worsen as more baby boomers retire.

Justin Welner, Spirit AeroSystems vice president for human resources, said 40 percent of the company's more than 10,000 workers in Wichita will be eligible to retire in five years. Spirit is recruiting nationally and sometimes has to put new hires through intensive training.

"This is the topic that keeps me up at night," Welner said. "Because we are experiencing a gap in terms of finding people with the experience we would typically require."

The lack of workers could prompt companies to stay out of Kansas or to put off expansion plans.

"Are we doing everything we can do in the state of Kansas to backfill those jobs so that Spirit, Textron and other major employers don't have to make a choice between Wichita and other operations they have around the world?" said Gary Plummer, president and CEO of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Kansas' labor force has dropped from more than 1,525,000 in 2009 to about 1,480,000, even as the labor force nationwide has grown. The state's unemployment rate is a low 3.9 percent.

"It's not going to do any good to bring companies in if they can't get staffed," said Sen. Julia Lynn, a Republican who chairs the Kansas Senate commerce committee.

Interim Kansas Commerce Secretary Nick Jordan said the state's education system needs to change to offer more of the skills needed in today's workforce.

Kansas offers a program that allows high school students to qualify for state-paid tuition in some technical and community college courses, but lawmakers and business leaders say it needs more funding.

The Kansas State Department of Education has also launched a redesign of K-12 schools meant to support students who choose to pursue technical careers as much as those who go to college. A handful of districts are redesigning now as part of a pilot project.

Still, Kansas also must retain college graduates and work to reverse its "brain drain," said Rep. Brandon Whipple, the ranking Democrat on the House commerce committee.

The officials offered several possible solutions including attracting businesses such as Amazon that appeal to young workers; considering relocation incentives to lure workers to Kansas; offering an apprenticeship tax credit to help people while they are being trained; and reconsidering how the state apportions tax incentives to appeal to the most desirable industries.


Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 months, 4 weeks ago

With a population that would elect idiots like Brownback and Kobach to public office (and go head over heels for Chump) ...............who in the world with a shred of intelligence or competence would want to come to "flyover, bleeding" Kansas????

Bob Smith 5 months, 4 weeks ago

We'll all come down to the bus station to wave bye-bye when you leave.

William D'Armond 5 months, 4 weeks ago

This isn't a Kansas problem, it is a nationwide problem. Big production facilities send all their production related jobs to China and Mexico because they want to avoid taxes and pay cheap labor. Top that with the largest tech boom in history where children are going $50K-$150K in debt to be trained for before they ever have a job. Then Piggy back that with H1B visa's that they are bring foreigners from poverty striken countries to pay them minimum wage or be sent home.

The young adults and kids just behind them do not want to have "Technical Abilities" They want to work in an air conditioned office, sitting behind a computer monitor. They also thing they should be making $100K a year out of college, because they is what they are telling them at the colleges in this country. I was a supervisor in a maintenance field for a decade. 90% of my applicants who were qualified were over the age of 40. 90% of the people under the age of 40 either had 0 experience and currently working for Applebees or Lowes, or some other dead end job or had a criminal history where it was the best option they had.

Until there is a reason for young adult to get excited about technical jobs, they are going to pursue a bachelors degree that takes them nowhere other than 20 years of debt payment to the university of their choice.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 months, 4 weeks ago

Good post, William. It always annoys me when I see these advertisements for office desks and other TV ad baloney about how they give the impression that all the "work" that people do is sitting behind a computer screen. This baloney does not get the house painted or cook the hamburgers or fix the car engines. A lot of "real" work has nothing to do with the damned screen or a web site,.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 5 months, 4 weeks ago

Years ago, when I went to work for King Radio, I didn't know what a resistor or capacitor was, how to solder or test flight radios; the company trained me. Then I went to work for Duke Manufacturing. I didn't know how to spot weld, drill stained glass, wire salad bars for lights, etc.; the company trained me.

In Brownback's Kansas we have had education cut and many companies paid little or no taxes for education. And now they are complaining about it? Maybe they need to start training their employees like they did just a few years back.

Bob Summers 5 months, 4 weeks ago

Do like the congenital Liberals do in California. Hire foreigners and pay them half what a citizen would command.

Greg Cooper 5 months, 4 weeks ago

Yeah, right. Like ALL of those people would take those jobs.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 months, 4 weeks ago

Bob loves to display his fantasy of political rubbish in nearly all of his posts.

He screams "LIBERAL, LIBRAL, LIBERL!!!!!!! at the drop of a hat or at the posting of some reasonable and worthy information. You need to learn to ignore this blather.

Larry Sturm 5 months, 4 weeks ago

When you take from the poor and give to the rich that is what the end result is.

Brock Masters 5 months, 4 weeks ago

Blah blah, point ringers, attack and try to score political points. How about ideas and solutions?

Give credit to Dot for suggesting that businesses help fill the gap by training employees. How about investing more in vo-tech schools that have. dhanging xurricjlm to keep pace with industey needs.

How about recruiting from around the atate and if not enough apply then from inner cities around the country with high unemplymemt and giving full ride scholarahipa to students who will relocate here and have a job when they graduate. Yeqh, it would coat money butmi see it as an investment.

Greg Cooper 5 months, 4 weeks ago

Sorry, Brock, but that would be proactive. We don't do that in Kansas.

Brock Masters 5 months, 4 weeks ago

Sorry Greg (walking away in shame), don't know what I was thinking haha

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 months, 4 weeks ago

Uh..........sorry Brock.............uh..........."proof reading" needed??

Brock Masters 5 months, 4 weeks ago

Yeah, I don't always catch the stupid stuff that my phone autocorrects or my fat fingers type on my little keyboard.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 months, 4 weeks ago

Yeah.....I do it a lot myself when I get upset and angry at some of the fools who post on this site. Gotta cool down and take it easy, the sun will come up tomorrow.

Bill Turner 5 months, 4 weeks ago

Aw, someone screwed up the headline. It should read: Technically trained workers facing a severe shortage of employers willing to pay decent salaries in Kansas. If workers are going to be treated as a commodity (as they are in today's society), then you're going to have to pay more when the supply is short. Price is the ultimate fixer between supply and demand. I didn't see any hesitation on the part of employers to layoff, furlough, deny pay increases, or otherwise abuse vulnerable employees during the depths of the recession in 2009-2010. It's awfully hard to feel any sympathy for those same employers now that the economy is on a roll with revenues and profits booming. Pony up, MFs, and quit your b!tch!n.

Thomas Kurata 5 months, 4 weeks ago

Cloud County Community College (CCCC) has one of the best 2-year wind energy technology programs in the US for those interested in working in this renewable energy field. As I understand, the median annual income for this type of work is about $52,000 US before overtime pay kicks in. Back in 2008/2009 when I took an online class in wind energy at CCCC, I learned that students in the 2-year wind energy technology program were being heavily recruited by the wind companies after only completing 2 semesters. The wind energy companies were intent on providing those students who accepted job offers without finishing the CCCC degree requirements with on-the-job training to bring them up to speed as quickly as possible. It would seem that the Kansas companies in need of personnel and the community colleges across Kansas that offer relevant technical programs should be talking and cooperating more with each other to fill the personnel gap.

William D'Armond 5 months, 4 weeks ago

Thomas, you have reiterated my point. As an adult going back to school with real world experience and an education, you might see $52,000 per year. Unfortunately All higher educational institutes are using this tactic of stating the median income for their programs to boost registration. The unfortunate reality is for these 20 year olds graduating with their associates degrees and $20K in financial debt already, they are more likely to start at entry level for the position, more like $38,000 per year, and it will take them 7-12 years before they actually reach the level of $52K a year.

This sort of thing happens every day. Employers want their employees to come in with a college degree, but without experience they are not willing to pay. The reason being, they are going to have to invest in that employee to get them trained in their specific field to the level that they want them at. It is a risk that the employer takes with every hire. They say turnover is the highest cost in an organization at roughly $38K per employee that leaves and has to be rehired and trained, but most employers battle that statistic by keeping the payroll as low as possible, so when they loss an employee they have spent 2 years training, it doesn't have as large an impact on the business overall.

Just my thoughts.

Richard Neuschafer 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Kansas employers who want tech employees tend to pay a great deal less than employers in other states. That's why they leave. Too often those Kansas employers don't pay enough for the employees to keep a roof over their heads let alone pay for student loans, get a car, buy food, get married, etc. The employers have no one to blame but themselves.

Richard Neuschafer 5 months, 3 weeks ago

And also too many employers in the tech fields only want to hire people on a contract basis. Temporary employment with minimal or no benefits. Sometimes the employers will renew the contracts. But, it's shaky ride not knowing if they are going to have a job beyond a year. It's likely that these employers will also want more H1B employees (from foreign countries) to exploit at lower wages. Sorry! Those employers can shove those jobs.

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