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November 3, 2023

Three Key Insights From the Kansas Manufacturing Summit 

by Pete Dulin

UMKC TalentLink Business Development Director Candice Haines shares three key insights from the recent 2023 Kansas Manufacturing Summit.  

The Kansas Manufacturing Summit brought together manufacturers, educators, and community leaders to discuss common issues and the future of manufacturing.  

Why Attend the Kansas Manufacturing Summit? 

Haines attended the conference to learn about industry innovations, current trends, and needs in Kansas manufacturing. Those industry-based needs are also relevant to Kansas City and the bi-state region. 

UMKC TalentLink recognizes the importance of manufacturing as a significant contributor to the local and regional economy. The Summit provided an opportunity to listen, learn, and assess company needs. Looking ahead to 2024, we’re focused on how our professional development offerings can serve those employers. 

Manufacturing is a major economic driver in Kansas. The 2022 Kansas Manufacturing Industry survey reports that 93 percent of manufacturers have operated in the state for more than five years.  

Among all Kansas manufacturers surveyed, 20 percent generate annual sales from $3-14.9 million. At the next level, 39 percent produce $15-74.9 million in annual sales.  

Many of these Kansas manufacturers fall in the small to midsize range in terms of employees. Findings show that 33 percent employ between 25-99 workers and 36 percent employ between 100-499 workers.  

UMKC TalentLink’s training and development supports the needs of manufacturers, particularly in this company size range.  

“I met manufacturers at the Summit who are poised for continued growth. However, they lack the number of skilled workers necessary to fit their needs,” Haines said. “We offer online skills-based training that can address this pain point.” 

UMKC TalentLink’s partnership with WorkForge provides online manufacturing skills training in multiple industries that align with leading Kansas manufacturers. Training programs include robotics technician, aerospace assembly, and aerospace quality technician. Additional programs include welding, CNC fabrication, CNC lathe operator, food safety production, industrial maintenance technician, and introduction to entry-level manufacturing. 

UMKC TalentLink and WorkForge announce a partnership that enables manufacturers to train employees in key skills and enhances capacity for manufacturing growth.
  • Insight 1 -Workforce Among Issues Challenging Business Growth 
    Raw material costs (67%), inflation (65%), and attracting skilled workers (60%) were the top three current issues that impact business growth among Kansas manufacturers. Looking ahead, 75 percent of manufacturers state that inadequate availability of an hourly workforce will restrict business growth over the next five years. 
    “Several conversations with manufacturers at the Summit reiterated this point. As more workers retire, companies need to hire and train new employees with fundamental skills to maintain their workforce and grow the business,” Haines said. “We can help address this need.” 
    Online training through WorkForge is an affordable and practical way to attract and educate people interested in skilled trades and a pathway to high-paying jobs. “UMKC TalentLink is ready to work with employers on establishing or supporting existing training methods that draw people to these in-demand jobs,” Haines said. 
  • Insight 2 – Attracting Qualified Candidates is Difficult 
    A whopping 90 percent of survey participants found it very difficult or somewhat difficult to attracted qualified job candidates to fill open positions.  
    As older generations of workers retire, companies face the challenge of attracting younger people into manufacturing industries. From younger generations preparing to enter the workforce or those already working in other fields, many opt for employment opportunities outside of manufacturing. Others may not know that these high-paying jobs exist. 
    This pervasive workforce challenge won’t be quickly or easily resolved. Still, the issue isn’t insurmountable. Employers who promote and provide a focused in-house training program may find a competitive edge in the quest for workers.  
    Prospective candidates may be seek an employer willing to invest in them not only as a new hire, but also as they pursue advancement and professional growth.  
    “High-quality training and career development through WorkForge’s online pathways signal an employer’s willingness to invest in their talent,” Haines said. “Further, a well-planned training program provides clarity of intent. It demonstrates the value of learning additional skills when linked with advancement opportunities. These attributes can help employers attract workers.” 
  • Insight 3 – Recruiting and Retention Are Intertwined 
    Syndeo Outsourcing HR Manager Megan Dresie presented a talk about workforce challenges at the Summit. She underscored how recruiting and retention are intertwined when facing workforce challenges in manufacturing and other industries. 
    Further, Dresie highlighted the need to increase employee retention and reduce the need to recruit. Easier said than done?  
    The pandemic and ongoing retirement of workers from the Boomer Generation are two key factors impacting workforce availability. Employees want more flexibility and are quicker to quit if they are not happy in the workplace.  
    Dresie suggested that recruiters at companies define their ideal employee and know what those workers want. That enables employers to determine what they can offer and advertise to that audience. Then recruit applicants whose values align with the company. 

    When the values of a candidate and company match, the new hire is more likely to stay because the relationship is a good fit. One proposed recruiting solution is to promote company values, culture, and benefits. Prospective employees now see “benefits” as base “requirements.”  

    Syndeo finds, “Top talent today is often more motivated by dynamics such as company culture, positive working relationships, flexibility, and company values as they are in a weekly paycheck.” 

    Flexibility ranks high as a retention tool. In manufacturing, most employees can’t work remotely from home or offsite. Online training is one of several creative ways to offer flexibility and engage employees to meet their needs.  

    WorkForge online training is one way to support both the recruitment and retention of employees. Workers want to know that the company will invest in their growth. That’s a competitive advantage worth maximizing in a tight labor market. 

Learn more about how UMKC TalentLink and WorkForge can partner with your company to find training and development solutions that address your workforce challenges.