The Regional Work-Force Development Ecosystem

Area employers should consider these factors when developing today’s work- force potential—and tomorrow’s.

By Clyde McQueen

In the greater Kansas City Region, we are systematically putting in place foundational building blocks to sustain and expand our economic footprint in local, regional, and international markets. 

These system-focused efforts include building the new Kansas City International Airport terminal and facilitating increased global commerce within the advanced manufacturing, health care/life/bioscience; information technology, and transportation/distribution sectors of our region.

Building the first women’s pro soccer stadium, earning host-city status for the 2026 FIFA World Cup soccer games, and an-ticipating newly built/remodeled stadiums for the Royals and Chiefs will dramatically affect economic activity and entertainment within our region when constructed. In addition, the concentrated development focused on Kansas City’s 18th & Vine district will facilitate equitable economic growth within the urban core, while reinforcing a guiding principle of small and minority business ownership. 

This growth will require a work force to build facilities and operate the machines that make our cars, trucks, and other equipment. We will need workers to staff facilities that provide health exams, work in times of life and death, and take care of the elderly when incapacitated. 

However, the work force needs do intensify due to a declining birth rate, higher rates of retirement, a confusing immigration system and a population increasingly led by single-parent households requiring a more comprehensive childcare/early education system. 

Employees’ Financial Challenges

The pandemic has depleted the cash reserves of many middle- and low-income families, leading to reduced credit—or no credit—available to these families. Further, the high cost of housing has driven many prospective home buyers to the apartment market, increasing rents and increasing demand by higher-income families. This increase in rental rates, mainly those close to employment sites, creates further barriers to housing access for middle- and lower-income households. 

The housing challenges also emphasize the importance of transportation in a region as expansive as this one, which is a crucial asset along with its central location. Therefore, transportation access for workers should be discussed with the Kansas City Area Transit Authority when considering location, expansion, or shift additions.

Employers should consider these factors when recruiting, making employment offers, and retaining employees beyond their introductory periods. When recruiting employees, be specific about benefits, pay periods, signing bonuses,  wages, etc. 

The lack of cash reserves and credit lead to employment no-shows and a lack of retention once people determine they are “upside down” with their pay rate, compared to bills they have to pay. 

Given the predominance of single parents in the labor market, some employer support of child care through the identification of child-care providers and inclusion as part of fringe benefits will be appealing to potential applicants with children. 

A large number of retirements, combined with declining birth rates, leads to reduced volume of experienced employees. Therefore, reconsidering minimum requirements such as  “one to three years of experience. ” Applicants should be reviewed regarding their relevance to successful job execution, not merely based on a 20th-century precedent. The further specific definition of fringe benefits, including tuition reimbursement or employer-sponsored tuition with no employee cash outlay, is essential when employees lack cash reserves.

Finally, help facilitate new-employee retention by engaging multiple new “hires” as a cohort or class, and if it is a single employee, assign them a company mentor or “buddy.” The cohort or buddy can provide support in times of need and provide strategic intelligence regarding pro or con company policy that impacts employee retention.

About the author

Clyde McQueen is CEO of the Full Employment Council in Kansas City.

P | 816.471.2330
E | cmcqueen@feckc.com