KANSASWORKS Connects Employers to Skilled Workers
Online matchmakers are churning out hundreds of successful matches in Kansas – at least when it comes to the state’s workforce system.
The Kansas Department of Commerce administers the KANSASWORKS system, which links businesses, job seekers and educational institutions to ensure that Kansas employers can find skilled workers. The system includes various workforce centers, which are located statewide to connect businesses with job seekers in their area, and integrates Kansas universities, community colleges and technical schools so they can tailor their curriculum to the needs of new and expanding businesses.
The result is a seamless network in which Kansas workers receive job-specific training and Kansas businesses can find well-trained employees. Those efforts are paying off on a number of fronts: Kansas has the No. 3-ranked workforce development programs in the nation, according to an Area Development magazine survey of site location consultants.
Kansas Workforce Program Targets Industry Needs
And as workforce and employer needs evolve, the program is evolving with them and keeping pace with industry innovations.
Biosciences are seeing tremendous growth in Kansas, especially in animal and human health.
Energy is expanding beyond its base in oil, gas and coal to include a burgeoning wind energy sector and biofuels. Kansas is ranked No. 2 in wind potential, according to National Renewable Energy Laboratory data. And companies such as Siemens Energy, which has a new nacelle manufacturing facility in Hutchinson, along with suppliers such as Denmark-based Jupiter Group and Holland-based Draka, are creating new job opportunities and, with them, new training needs.
Skills Training Helps Kansas Employers
A critical component to building a strong economy is the availability of a highly trained and qualified workforce, and Kansas has launched efforts on a number of fronts to ensure that employers have a deep pool of skilled talent from which to draw.
One of the keys to those efforts is the Kansas WORKReady! Initiative, which uses the WorkKeys® assessment tool to award Career Readiness Certificates to individuals to document their skills in mathematics, reading for information and locating information.
Applicants can receive a bronze-, silver-, gold- or platinum-level certificate based on their score, which indicates the percentage of core skills they possess for the jobs profiled by WorkKeys®.
Keith Meyers, director of training services for the Kansas Department of Commerce, sees a strong future for the training component.
“A lot of our employers find the skills assessment to be a valuable tool, especially in the manufacturing arena. If candidates don’t have a previous manufacturing background, but they can demonstrate a skills background, employers can see that they have a certain level of aptitude,” Meyers says.
When Siemens began hiring for its new facility in Hutchinson, the workforce program provided a job fair at Hutchinson Community College and listed open jobs on the state website.
Roger Brown, human resources manager for Siemens, says the state program provided important services the company couldn’t handle on its own. The plant hired around 150 employees in 2010 and plans to add more in 2011.
“Instead of having people constantly walk in and disrupt our small workforce, the job site listings allowed control of applications for a given time,” he says.
KANSASWORKS continues to seek additional funding to enhance its training capacity. The Department of Commerce and other partners collaborated on eight successful grant applications, which will amount to more than $23 million over the next few years, giving the program stability and the ability to help more people and leverage current resources.
A federal Health & Human Services grant for $15 million over five years, for example, is designed to increase the health care workforce by helping low-income individuals find employment in health care-related fields.