The Garden City Telegram
5/7/2014
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Labor help — Workforce development key with employment challenges

Local wages will become even more of an issue moving forward in Garden City and Finney County.

Retail growth has plenty of benefits, but at the same time promises to further strain an already tight labor pool. As new retail outlets open in Garden City, employers will experience even more competition for workers.

Meanwhile, local officials learned Finney County has some work to do in staying competitive, especially when it comes to wages.

A recently completed compensation and job classification study showed Finney County should make salary adjustments to bring employee wages to a more competitive level with other cities and counties in the state.

Pay, obviously, is among top concerns for most job seekers. Some Finney County departments have struggled with recruitment and retention, partly due to entry-level pay that didn't meet applicants' expectations.

The county hadn't conducted a wage study since 1995, and much has changed since then. The consultant compared the county's pay scale to other cities, counties and state agencies in Kansas, and also looked at private sector data. Finney County lagged behind.

On the plus side, the study also showed the county outperforming other communities with its health-care benefits, which always is something to sell to prospective employees.

The county — and all employers, for that matter — have the same goal: attracting and retaining good employees.

We know many local employers will face the prospect of paying more to keep good workers on staff.

At the same time, the issue should remind us of the importance of efforts to grow the existing workforce, and how education — key in economic development — warrants adequate support. Credit local economic development and educational forces for continuing to work together on strategies to bolster the workforce.

While retailers may struggle to find help, local economic development officials recently cited another list of tough-to-fill jobs: welder, truck driver and health care professional, among others.

It's safe to say a good number of would-be employees in the community don't have the skills various employers need, making local efforts to develop the best workforce possible all the more vital in a time of growth.