Kansas transportation & utility workers in high demand amid labor shortage

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — It’s hard to find workers, especially during a pandemic. Many industries are feeling the strain, and transportation is part of that list.

As a lot of areas report school bus driver shortages, some transportation workers in Kansas said they are also struggling to find workers.

“We did have a couple, kind of droughts, where we didn’t get a lot of applications, during the COVID experience, but for the most part, we’ve been able to continue service,” said Bob Nugent, general manager of Topeka Metro.

While, Nugent said it’s not hitting public bus companies as hard, there’s still an uphill battle to recruit workers during the pandemic.

The same goes for truck drivers and utility workers, which are just some of the industries that are feeling the impact of an ongoing labor shortage.

Northeast Kansas highway engineer Leroy Koehn told Kansas Capitol Bureau on Wednesday that he’s seeing maintenance crews with more than 50% vacancy. He said they’re in desperate need of equipment operators.

“Those are the people that do all the maintenance function on our highway system, the signs, the mowing, taking care of our potholes,” Koehn said. “A crew that would normally have 10 operators or so, we have one or two that I could think of, where we’re down to five or fewer.”

To combat the shortage of workers, the state has implemented recruitment efforts, like the My Reemployment Plan Program, to help connect unemployed Kansans with employers in their community.

Some employers and transportation workers, like Koehn, said it’s been hard to recruit and maintain people in the workforce, especially as the coronavirus pandemic continues, and people are making a slow return.

The impact is our inability to just do those basic maintenance functions that we would like to do, and the citizens would like to see.”

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