McPherson County business professionals gathered Tuesday to discuss the area workforce status Tuesday.
McPherson County business professionals gathered Tuesday to discuss the area workforce status Tuesday. A forum fostered communication surrounding an online survey taken by area businesses earlier this fall. The questions aimed to help communities identify skill shortages and recruiting difficulties. The survey was conducted by Kansas WorkforceONE, a non-profit corporation made of a board of private business representatives. It is part of a five-year strategic plan to evaluate immediate and long-term workforce needs of communities. Although the final numbers have not been made public, attendees deliberated over charts and graphs presented at the forum, which showed a number of trends. One topic that seemed to circle several times was the status of the inadequacies of the young labor force. In many cases, they are under-qualified. Greg McCullough, Farmers Alliance Mutual Insurance Co., said that although there might be opportunities for those seeking jobs to become qualified, McPherson's diverse industry might make it difficult. “McPherson and the McPherson area, when you look and the industry that we have here, it makes it real difficult for one program to solve problems because each one of us is a bit unique,” he said. “With the kind of industrial base as well as professional companies here, you look in (McPherson's WorkforceONE region), and there's not another city in that region that has that same scenario. I think the interesting thing we need to look at is, it's just a little bit different for each group and one solution doesn't necessarily blanket everything the survey is going to tell us.” In many cases, businesses are being forced to recruit employees from larger cities outside of the state to fill their vacancies, as they are the only ones qualified for the jobs. Some businesses expressed difficulty in the past of convincing potential employees from metropolitan areas that a more rural location like McPherson is a desirable place to relocate. Some in attendance also said they have had problems with retention and motivation for younger workers, which WorkforceONE executive director Deb Scheibler said was true across much of Kansas. In many cases, they have found this unemployed workforce has been unwilling to do what was necessary to improve and therefore lack the necessary skills to be employed. Tucky Allen, business services director, said McPherson doing a good job to combat this problem, however. “McPherson is doing some very proactive things to let the students know what employers are wanting,” Tucky Allen, business services director, said. “We do use McPherson as a role model for that. A lot of good things are happening here, it's just getting to that point (of getting employed).” For Kasi Morales of Go McPherson, a marketing and recruiting initiative to help attract and retain employees and residents to McPherson, the information reinforced what stakeholders already knew. What was most notable to Morales was results that showed that 78 percent of employers described their ability to secure qualified applicants as “hard to find” or “very hard to find” and this need was expected to grow. “Not only do these results show we have a need to help develop the unemployed or underemployed by connecting them to training resources available to help them become qualified,” she said, “but also with McPherson County's incredibly low unemployment rate and our employers predictions to expand workforce only backs up the need to have an organization actively promoting McPherson County as great place to live and work. This is what Go McPherson was established to do.” Scheibler said WorkforceONE will continue to walk alongside McPherson County as it moves forward with these results in mind. The organization will meet one-on-one with businesses who completed the survey to address necessary issues, and also be available as a resource as McPherson's leaders develop their own plans of action. For more information about the organization, visit kansasworkforce.org.