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7/16/2013

It's no time to shortchange workforce development.

It's no time to shortchange workforce development.

For some local employers, recent statistics on unemployment don't add up.

Numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website showed unemployment rates for Garden City and Finney County, as well as figures for the state, up in May.

The state unemployment rate came in at 5.8 percent, compared to 5.7 percent for May 2012.

Finney County's unemployment rate reportedly was 4.9 percent in May, compared to 3.9 percent in May 2012. Garden City's rate for May 2013 was 5.3 percent, compared to 4.2 percent for May 2012.

Knowing a good number of businesses continue having difficulty finding workers, local economic development forces weren't so sure about the numbers. One possible factor cited, however, was in challenges related to a shortage of skilled workers.

Local eco-devo officials pointed to a number of tougher-to-fill jobs: welder, truck driver and health care professional, among others.

Prospective employees often do not have the skills those employers need, which makes local efforts to develop the best workforce possible all the more vital.

Garden City Community College has been instrumental in that endeavor, and remains positioned to respond to changing labor needs in the community.

For example, in anticipation of a growing demand for workers in the oil industry, GCCC recently added an Oil Technology Program. GCCC's strategy included working alongside oil companies to better gauge their interests and needs.

Such partnerships are essential for a college charged with playing a vital role in community growth and development.

As part of that mission, schools at every level warrant adequate support. But community colleges weren't immune from funding cuts to higher education approved in the past Kansas legislative session, unfortunately.

The recent news on unemployment rates should give economic development and educational forces more to ponder as they chart the best possible strategies for growth. They know local employers need GCCC to remain a key player in training workers and connecting them with jobs that help fuel economic development.

And when it comes to supporting their local community college, taxpayers and lawmakers alike should know how investment in a quality workforce cannot be shortchanged.

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