Study reveals education as major asset to the area’s labor force
If there is one thing the Leavenworth County Development Corporation wants to let potential businesses know it’s this: the Leavenworth County area has an educated workforce.
Shortly after completing a labor availability analysis, Victoria Rowley, economic development coordinator for LCDC, was already using the statistical information to help bring potential businesses to the county.
“We have a much higher percentage of doctoral degrees, master’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees compared to other communities,” Rowley said. “It’s good that we have an educated workforce.”
A recently released labor study conducted by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs showed that almost half of the available labor pool in a seven-county basin had at least a bachelor’s degree and 98.5 percent have at least a high school diploma.
The report shows the population of the seven-county labor basin, Atchison, Douglas, Jefferson, Johnson, Leavenworth and parts of Wyandotte counties in Kansas and parts of Platte County, Mo., to be around 360,145 people, of which 21 percent, or 74,463 people, are part of the available labor pool.
The report characterizes the available labor pool to be workers who currently are not working, but looking for employment; are currently employed and looking for other full-time employment; are currently not working in any manner, but willing to consider different employment for the right opportunity; and currently employed and not looking, but willing to consider different employment for the right opportunity.
Michael Walker, assistant director for the Docking Institute, also said the 49 percent of available labor with college degrees in the Leavenworth County basin was higher than other areas. He said typically the percentage floats around 25-30 percent.
“I guess the downside in tough economic times is that there are more people with degrees that aren’t happy with the work they are in or don’t have a job,” he said.
The report found that there was a 6.9 percent unemployment rate in the seven-county basin.
In the available labor pool, 5.5 percent have a doctoral degree, 14.2 have a master’s degree and 29.3 have a bachelor’s degree.
The report also breaks down what the labor pool had studied. For their undergraduate degree, 27 percent studied business and economics, 20 percent studied art and humanities, 17 percent studied biological science, 12 percent studied social sciences, 12 percent studied education, 8 percent studied computer science and math, and 4 percent studied physical science and engineering.
Rowley said not only does LCDC want to use the information to attract outside companies to the county, but she also wants it to help existing companies expand.
“The study just really educates us on who we are and what we have available to potential employers and existing employers,” she said. “Existing businesses might be considering an expansion and might have been apprehensive about it because they weren’t sure if they would be able to find a specific type of labor.”
Rowley said they also want to use this information to help people in the county start their own businesses.
The report states that of the available labor pool, 10 percent report owning a small business.
Of the remaining group, 36 percent said they have seriously thought about starting their own business.
“From our perspective,” Rowley said, “the more assistance that we can provide to entrepreneurs will help get the people that are doing business in their house or in their basement a little extra push for them to get a store front and get their business running in the county.”
Rowley said LCDC already has programs, people and information on hand to help people start a business.
Some of the report’s other findings include:
• The average age of a person in the available labor pool is 43 years and 53.9 percent are women.
• 81 percent of the available labor pool will commute up to 30 minutes for a job.
• 28.5 percent spoke some amount of Spanish.
• The report found that the most important thing in a new job is good pay, followed by good health benefits, then good retirement benefits and good vacation benefits.
Rowley said LCDC is going to put this information on its Web site to give potential business more information on what kind of workers would be available if they decided to come to Leavenworth County.
The full study will also be available at tonganoxiemirror.com.
The surveys were taken in July and August.
Out of the 1,975 households contacted, adults in 1,206 households agreed to be surveyed.
In those households, 813 were not older than 65 and retired or not working. The report states that 291 of the eligible participants indicated they were available for a new or different employment. The report states that they have a margin of error of 5.7 percent.
Rowley said Docking Institute study cost $14,000 and was paid for by Leavenworth County Development Corporation, Leavenworth County Port Authority and Workforce Partnership.