When Kansas Colleges Compete, Business and Students Win
Kansas understands that succeeding in the workforce relies heavily on receiving quality training; but, deciding on what skills and competencies should be prioritized in the classroom without the input of the business community can prove to be difficult. In response, Kansas has developed Workforce AID (Aligned with Industry Demand), a state-run program that links educational supply with employer demand.
In this program, employers drive the training process, outlining the technical and employability skills they need from their workers. Based on those identified skills, Kansas’ community and technical colleges compete in a bidding process to be chosen to deliver training programs to students. This program proves to be dually beneficial: students receive critical skills for the working world, industry credentials, and college credit while employers, in turn, agree either to hire and/or interview graduates from these training programs.
As part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) Learning Network, Kansas is scaling up its Workforce AID program, with a focus on the Information Technology (IT) sector in the Kansas City region. Kansas is encouraging the small business community to join together to create employer collaboratives as a way to leverage the full benefits of what Workforce AID can bring as a demand-driven solution. From there, employer involvement through collaboratives also helps the IT business community improve demand planning, find common competency and credential requirements needed across the IT sector, and develop employer-centric performance measures.
The TPM initiative has helped bring together colleges with local businesses to provide training that is tailored to the skills needed to fill open jobs. Students are now transitioning seamlessly from their technical education into the workforce, allowing businesses to receive workers that are already prepared not only to succeed, but also to add value at a faster pace.
Kansas Postsecondary Technical Education Authority Chairman Ray Frederick asserts that “everyone engaged in this process is a winner. That includes the businesses, the students, the community, and the state.”
He concludes, "I don't know any other targeted training program where you get more bang for your buck."