eliberate and intentional are two words that hold significant weight when it comes to workforce development in Kansas.
It’s an all hands-on-deck initiative in the state — bridging the gap between industry needs and available training opportunities — that is constantly evolving in line with the demand and growth experienced by Kansas businesses.
A great example of this focus can be seen in the Kansas Training and Retention Aligned with Industry Need (KTRAIN) program. Rebranded from the Kansas Workforce Aligned with Industry Demand program, KTRAIN is designed to be a short-term, customizable training programs designed to attract and develop vital talent, while bringing together education and industry.
“Here in Kansas our little secret, or the secret sauce as I call it, is our community and technical college system,” says Kansas Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary Mike Beene. “They’ve been very adaptive to industry needs and have been instrumental in some of our recruitment projects as they align training with new industry. They’re great partners in our economic development world and are obviously great partners within our workforce world.”
The rebranding was based on industry feedback that aimed to streamline the application and overall training process for employers. In other words, allowing employers to design training programs that fit to their tight timelines.
Beene says a fitting instance of this need was seen in Kansas City, where a consortium of manufacturers needed industrial maintenance technicians but did not have the time to wait on a one- to two-year program. Kansas City Kansas Community College was able to work with these employers to create a training program that would produce talent ready to hit the ground running.
Industries seeking the most support are within manufacturing and commercial truck driving and are connecting to local institutions to build new programs. The Kansas Department of Commerce works with employers to reimburse training costs up to $2,000 per employee. In addition, students going through a program are employed by the respective company, meaning that they are receiving wages for the entire duration.
When considering moving to or expanding within Kansas there are a variety of workforce development services that will help your company find the ideal candidate to fill an open role.
“It’s a program that will continue to grow. It’s a program that aligns with industry training needs and helps to retain their employees, while building capacity within our community and technical college system to train for specific skills.”
— Mike Beene, Assistant Secretary, Kansas Department of Commerce
“It’s a program that will continue to grow,” says Beene. “It is a program that aligns with industry training needs and helps to retain their employees, while building capacity within our community and technical college system to train for specific skills.”
Finding the Right Role
Talent retention remains top of mind in Kansas. This means that opportunities must exist within reach at any given moment for its workforce, and the ability to have access to hands-on experience with companies has proved to be valuable in doing so.
In 2022, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly established the Office of Registered Apprenticeship within the Kansas Department of Commerce in signing Executive Order #22-07. In doing so, the state moved to modernize its approach to apprenticeship programs for both traditional and non-traditional occupations.
To date, the Office of Registered Apprenticeship has supported over 4,000 apprentices in 172 occupations, supporting a 92% employment retention rate at an average starting salary of $75,000.
Governor Kelly announced over $528,000 in registered apprenticeship funding in September 2023, distributed to eight entities in the state. Upon receiving 16 applications that requested a total of $3.3 million in funding, eight of those received up to $100,000 for various projects.
The awardees included Dodge City Economic Development Council ($45,000); Greater Kansas City Laborers Training ($36,000); Ironworkers Joint Apprenticeship & Training Trust ($29,956); Kansas Farm Bureau ($90,000); Kansas State Council of SHRM ($62,160); Plumber and Pipefitters Training of Kansas ($100,000); Topeka Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee ($66,885) and Wichita Electrical Industry Training Fund ($98,476).
While most of the recipients will use funding for business outreach, others will use it to support equipment and personnel costs.
As new apprenticeship opportunities arise, the Office of Registered Apprenticeship is prepared to help workers and employers secure the right program that fits their needs. From on-site training, mentorship and technical instruction offerings, there is an avenue to excel in many industries throughout the state.
New Training Opportunities
In 2023, the Kansas Department of Commerce announced $30 million in funding to support its Aviation Learning Opportunities & Funding Training (ALOFT) and Delivering Residents and Workforce (DRAW) grant programs.
Made possible through the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas Executive Committee, these programs target economically significant sectors like aviation, healthcare, education and technology in Kansas. These workforce programs touch the entire state, as it prepares the workforce to be equipped to handle industry needs. Over the next two years, program awardees must use all funding to build targeted training programs.
ALOFT was provided with the majority of grant funding for aviation and aerospace manufacturers, supply chain providers and local airports to create initiatives for training and workforce development. In June 2023, funds totaling $20 million were distributed to entities with three Kansas cities: Wichita, Olathe and Salina. Wichita awardees saw the most funding at over $12.4 million, specifically to Learjet Inc., Metal Finishing Company, Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc., Textron Aviation Inc. and Wichita Airport Authority.
With this grant, awardees may use the funding to aid in construction costs for on-site training facilities, vendor training for equipment, training salaries and marketing to boost youth interest in aviation and aerospace.
Meanwhile, the DRAW program spans a broader array of high-demand industries in the state. Healthcare providers, educational centers and institutions, technology-based companies and employers focused on training those with disabilities were among the recipients of the $10 million in grant funding.
“As Kansas continues to attract transformative economic development projects,” said Kansas Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Commerce David Toland, “it is vital our state’s talent pipeline receives the right training to build out the skillsets needed to enjoy successful careers in these targeted sectors. The DRAW program is laser-focused on the state’s most critical positions.”
Out of 50 applicants for DRAW funding, 26 were awarded. The highest amount of funding granted was $740,000, which was landed by each of the following: AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, Dodge City Community College, Envision Foundation, Independence Community College, National Logistics Training Center, Paragon Energy Solutions and TECHS Inc. entities that each serve a different city throughout Kansas.
With a variety of programs now in place in Kansas, both employees and employers have access to training opportunities around every corner. As the state continues to invest in both its workforce and businesses, there is no better time to connect the two in the Sunflower State.