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Carolyn Caine
Institute for Policy & Social Research
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Kansas Economic Policy Conference to address urgent workforce needs

Mon, 10/16/2023

LAWRENCE — Each year, the Kansas Economic Policy Conference convenes community and industry leaders, policymakers and scholars. On Oct. 19, the conference will address workforce needs for Kansas.

Recent research shows that Kansas employers are likely to need 34,000 more credentialed workers than the state will have by 2030.

“Our report shows that surrounding states pay higher wages for skilled workers,” said Donna Ginther, Roy A. Roberts & Regents Distinguished Professor of Economics and director of the Institute for Policy & Social Research at the University of Kansas.

“Kansas is currently at full employment, and the addition of the Panasonic plant near Eudora and the EMP Shield plant in Burlington underscores the need to attract and retain workers to the state,” she said.

Workforce needs are closely linked to population trends. And in Kansas, the population growing slowly, even though the state boasts a low cost of living, easy access to amenities like recreational areas and short travel time between small towns and big cities. Most counties in Kansas have not grown in population in the 21st century.

During the conference, speakers will address questions surrounding workforce development from different perspectives. The event features keynotes from Ginther on the state of the Kansas economy and the Kansas workforce as well as from Misty Heggeness, associate scientist with IPSR and associate professor of public affairs & administration, on child care access and the Kansas workforce.

State and local leaders will address workforce development during a conversation among John Clark, Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 441, Kansas Apprenticeship Council member; Scott Smathers, Kansas Board of Regents; Amanda Duncan, vice president and chief business development officer, Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas; and Diane DeBacker, founding director of the Center for Certification and Competency Based Education, KU. 

The conference will also include a conversation among industry leaders around workforce needs, with Sheri Gonzales, senior director of DEI, Evergy; and Neelima Parasker, CEO, SnapIT Solutions.

In the afternoon, legislators will have the opportunity to address workforce challenges and opportunities during a conversation among State Sen. Michael Fagg, R-14; State Rep. Brandon Woodard, D-30; and State Rep. Stephanie Clayton, House minority whip, D-19.

Tim Carpenter, senior reporter for the Kansas Reflector; Teri Finneman, associate professor of journalism at KU and publisher of The Eudora Times; and Madeline Fox, news director at KCUR, will moderate the conversations.

The conference allows for in-depth discussions about matters of importance to the state, according to Ginther.

“The perspectives from legislators are very helpful in understanding the future policy direction of the state when it comes to retaining and growing the Kansas workforce,” she said.

The conference will take place at the Burge Union and online, with live captioning available. Registration is required to attend this free public event.





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