Kansas Workforce works to address skilled worker shortage

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A major concern for employers nationwide, including in Kansas, is finding enough workers. A new workforce report is out today addressing these issues. 

The Kansas Chamber launched a strategic action plan three years ago to address how the state can be better at competing in attracting and building business in Kansas. 

Economic Leadership, a firm based out of North Carolina, was commissioned by the Chamber in early 2020 to do an in-depth study.

With the impact from COVID-19, the Economic Leadership Managing Partner, Ted Abernathy, says the group is releasing a new report. 

“Workforce is one of those issues that is at the forefront of the national business concerns these days,” said Abernathy. “It’s looking at how Kansas can compete better for matching workers with the needs of business in the state.”

The research from the report showed Kansas’s workforce would not grow during the next decade without new efforts. However, there are challenges with finding skilled workers. Business needs to increase involvement at schools and address other ways to retain workers. 

“We don’t have enough workers for the jobs that we currently have, and there’s more openings than there are people in the labor force, and in the case of Kansas, not growing workers very quickly,” said Abernathy.

Abernathy said there are 20 solutions to these challenges. Some of these are expanding students’ work experience, prioritizing talent retention and attraction, increasing registered apprenticeships, and several others. 

“This is, I think, the ninth state we’ve worked in like this, and some people started a few years ago, and there are ongoing efforts in Kansas,” he said. “There’s some best practices in Kansas that we tell others about, but they’re not scaled across the state, and they don’t make it to every corner of Kansas.”

The pandemic focused on women returning to the labor force by adding more childcare programs, training to reskill workers, creating more incentives for workers, and several other ideas.

You can find the full report here.

Abernathy said the pandemic influenced a higher quit rate, so now, more than ever is the time to start working out the challenges Kansas faces in the workforce. 

“We need to re-skill adults more, we need to attract more people to Kansas and keep the people we have, so there are some big things that are pretty obvious, but we’re going to look at best practices around the country, programs that will work here and try to address some of them,” he said. 

His advice is to build on the things that are working and start making small moves towards the big goal of a stronger workforce. 

The summit kicks off at 9 a.m. at the Wichita Marriott Hotel. It goes until 5 p.m.

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