MIDC’s Workforce Focus Group: Working Together to Meet McPherson County’s Workforce Needs

While MIDC is interested in attracting the right new businesses to McPherson, 90% of their time is spent working to support their strong existing industrial base, many of whom are in expansion mode.  Combined, the expansion projects in the McPherson area that were recently completed or that are currently in progress are projected to bring about 300 direct jobs to the county over the next five years. The 2016 industrial survey conducted by MIDC revealed that 43% of the survey’s 21 respondents expected an expansion in the next three years; a couple of these employers had just recently completed expansion projects. The before mentioned job creation projections do not include the projections for the expansions that are on the horizon.

It is easy to see that MIDC’s challenge is about helping our existing industries with growth strategies by meeting their ever-expanding workforce needs.  To do this MIDC is working to foster stronger relationships and communication between businesses and educators. Good working relationships between McPherson’s industrial employers, The Business and Industry Institute at Hutchinson Community College, USD 418, and the McPherson Industrial Development Company have long existed, however, in early 2017 MIDC announced a workforce focus group to formalize ongoing conversations between McPherson County industrial employers and county- wide educators.

On Wednesday, March 1st, MIDC hosted their first working lunch to focus on the topic of workforce.    Our March meeting started with each educator providing an update to industry about career to technical education programs at their institutions. Employers were then given the opportunity to talk about their workforce situations. There were nine representatives from five different McPherson County businesses including ATP, Chemstar, Ferguson, Mid-Kansas Machine and Mid-Kansas Co-op.  Educational partners present were HS CTE representatives, Monte Couchman, Lindsborg USD 400; Bryce McFarland, McPherson USD 418; and representatives from Hutchinson Community College’s Business and Industry Institute, Steve Porter and Dave Mullins. The group’s conversation centered on the skill shortages our employers see now and on the horizon.

The goal of these discussions will help educators understand McPherson County’s workforce needs and work together to develop customizable training solutions to aid in filling the immediate and future needs of our employers.  The conversations will also help educators know how to better sell students on the fact that they do not need to leave McPherson County to have a good paying, satisfying career.  Manufacturing has evolved; the shop floors of McPherson’s industrial employers are marvels of engineering, unrecognizable to employees who worked in them a generation ago, MIDC and other community stakeholders have been working hard to get that message out.  The effort to spread this message will be more visible in 2017 through MIDC funded, GoMcPherson marketing projects.  Meeting our industries ever-changing workforce needs is a challenge, however, through the partnerships between our educators, businesses and economic development stakeholders coupled with targeted recruitment/marketing strategies, MIDC is confident it can be done.