State Board special work session focuses on workforce development

The Kansas State Board of Education participated in a special one-day work study session in Wichita that focused discussion around workforce development and continued efforts to help prepare students for job opportunities in Kansas. 

Discussions began Monday morning at the Textron Aviation Activity Center where members of the State Board were joined by business and industry leaders from the Wichita area representing the aviation industry, manufacturing, finance, construction and heavy equipment sales and service.  Discussion focused on the continued and growing need for a qualified workforce to fill both expansion needs as well as openings due to a growing retirement age of the current workforce. 

One representative from the aviation industry indicated that roughly 40 percent of its 12,000 employees are already “retirement eligible” and another indicated they need to hire at least 300 new employees per year just to keep up with their retirements. 

Further discussion around the more technical/skilled trade type jobs focused on the decreasing interest in those fields and a perception that parents and school counselors were more focused on sending students toward a 4-year degree post-secondary path than into the trades areas. 

Another representative from the heavy equipment service industry said that a diesel technician with just two years of training and certification could be earning around $75,000 per year in wages and benefits but they still have a hard time finding applicants and recruiting students into the field. 

One attendee of the meeting observed that “Part of the problem with budget cuts to K-12 Education over the past decade has been a decrease in counselors in the school system. Without those professionals in place to work with, we see a bigger disconnect of providing both students and parents about the opportunities that exist in the technical career fields.” 

Following the round table discussions in the morning, the State Board had the opportunity to see first-hand the opportunities for work and education in the Wichita area with tours of the Textron Aviation production facilities, the WSU Tech Aviation and Manufacturing Education campus as well as the new Innovation Campus at Wichita State University. 

The day concluded with the Board meeting with a dozen area school administrators where the Board asked for feedback on their current initiatives and what concerns schools were still facing. 

The common theme of the discussion was finding the resources to achieve the new goals and visions set forth in Kansans CAN mission and being able to hire in some key areas of focus like sciences and mathematics. 

Share this post