Kansas Studies Their Ag Workforce Development Needs

Kansas brings to mind waving wheat fields and big agriculture for most people. I was once part of the Kansas agricultural workforce, as a combine operator on the summer wheat harvest. I loved that big open country with its impressive thunderstorms, endless sunshine, hot winds, and jackrabbits. I wasn’t quite as fond of getting stuck in the mud early in the season or working 18 hour days when the wheat was dry later in the summer. All great experiences for a Pennsylvania farm boy!

The Kansas Department of Agriculture did a needs assessment survey of their state’s agriculture industry in 2016. According to the report, agriculture represents over 229,000 jobs or 12% of the state’s workforce, no wonder they are focusing on ensuring their future ag workforce. Key findings in the report included:

  • Almost half (44%) of the businesses that responded to the survey were planning to expand operations to meet market demands.
  • Communications and other soft skills such as time management and dependability were viewed as the greatest weaknesses that Kansas employers found in job applicants.
  • Critical and analytical thinking was another quality deemed lacking in applicants.

Next steps from the Kansas study included further research with the businesses, encouraging partnerships with high schools, and evaluating continuing education opportunities and their alignment with business needs.

Some of the soft skills findings are very interesting to me. Certainly there’s a role for educational programs in addressing those skills gaps. There is also an important role for business leaders to play in creating a motivating environment for employees, more on that in a future post…

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