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In Wichita, you will find the knowledge & skill base to get the job done well

Manufacturing accounts for 17.7% of Wichita metro area employment – nearly double the national percentage (8.7%). Much of the Wichita area workforce is accustomed to shift work due to the area's industrial history. Large manufacturers commonly run traditional 3-shift operations or flexible 24-hour schedules. The labor force is highly skilled, in large part due to the high concentration of manufacturing firms in the area using high technology design and production methods. Of the 100 largest U.S. metro areas – Wichita ranks #1 in manufacturing jobs as percent of all jobs, and #3 in percent of manufacturing jobs classified as “very high-tech.” (Brookings Institution – 2012.) According to a Milken Institute study, Wichita has the highest concentration of aircraft and aircraft parts manufacturing employment (skills) in the nation. Wichita area manufacturers also utilize these precision production skills to produce high value-added products such as industrial-commercial machinery, computer equipment, fabricated metal products, instrumentation and controls, photographic equipment, plastic and composite products, chemicals, petroleum refining equipment and electronic equipment.

Portion of Total Employment in Manufacturing Sector

Wichita, KS

17.7%

Tulsa, OK

11.2%

National

8.7%

Dallas, TX

7.7%

Kansas City, MO-KS7.1%
Omaha, NE6.7%
Oklahoma City, OK6.0%
Des Moines, IA5.7%
Denver, CO4.9%

The Wichita area workforce has a reputation for productivity and quality as the result of strong training investment.

Wichita Metro Area Educational Attainment

 

Less Than Ninth Grade

3.7%

9th to 12th Grade – No Diploma

6.7%

High School Graduate (Inc. Equivalency)

27.4%

Some College – No Degree

26.0%

Associate Degree7.5%
Bachelor Degree19.2%
Graduate or Professional Degree9.4%

Labor Availability

Wichita Metro Area had 2015 population of 644,610 persons. Workforce availability is enhanced by the area's healthy population growth. Metro Area population grew by 64,771 persons (11.2%) from 2000 to 2015. It is a relatively young population with 2010 median age of 35.0 years (national median age 37.2 years.) Sedgwick County (pop. 511,574) is the central county of the MSA (79% of MSA population.) Planning Department county population projection is 582,000 in 2035. The 2016 Wichita metro area civilian labor force was 314,055 persons with an unemployment rate of 4.6%, representing about 14,400 persons.

Approximately 7,800 high school graduates are produced annually in the Wichita metro area. There are over 49,600 college students in the Wichita metro area (about 22,500 are part-time.) These institutions graduate roughly 4,100 bachelor degrees and 3,100 associate degrees annually.

McConnell Air Force Base (MAFB) borders southeast Wichita. As of September 2014 MAFB employed 2,989 active duty military members. Total employment including active duty, air guard, reserve and civilian was 7,134. Its presence adds about 2,000 spouses of military personnel to the labor pool. The base produces about 500 local military discharges annually. These discharged personnel offer excellent technical skills in a wide variety of fields. McConnell's mission is secure – aerial refueling (22nd Air Refueling Wing) and electronic intelligence (Kansas Air National Guard – 184th Intelligence Wing.) In November 2005 the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) increased personnel by 520 positions – making MAFB the largest "super tanker base" in the United States. In May 2013 MAFB was tentatively selected as the first main operating base for the new KC-46A Tanker. On April 23, 2014, Air Force officials announced that McConnell AFB had been selected as the first active duty led KC-46A Pegasus main operating base, clearing the way to receive 36 KC-46A aircraft. Capital expenditures required to house the new tankers could reach $219 million. Construction of three new hangars began in March 2015. The 184th Intelligence Wing provides near real-time analysis of multisource reconnaissance – providing continual actionable intelligence. Over 500 members of the 184th have top security clearance – and many 184th IT professionals work part time in the Guard – and also work for local private sector employers.

Wichita State University's Center for Economic Development & Business Research conducted an extensive 2007 survey of the South Central Kansas regional workforce. It contains extensive data on availability and skills of the Available Labor Pool (ALP) – which includes both currently employed and unemployed persons. For reports, see the data download section on the right hand side of the screen.

Recruitment Assistance

A one-stop system to match job seekers with employers – including comprehensive testing, assessment and counseling is available through the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas. This turn-key service provides qualified job-ready applicants to new or expanding businesses.

Workforce Solutions offers employee recruitment assistance via an online job posting service, relocated spouse job search assistance, job fairs, etc.

Labor Costs
The most recent federal statistic (2014) for Wichita MSA average annual pay is $43,706. That is $9,035 or 20.7% below the national metro area average of $52,741. Actuarial & Technical Solutions, an authority on manufacturing worker's comp costs, assigns Kansas a 2009 cost index of 0.946, over 5% below the national average (1.000.)

Wichita Metro Area Occupational Wage Survey – May 2014 – Note that employment figures shown indicate number of persons employed in each occupation in the Wichita metro area (not sample size.) Click here to download this survey in Excel format (including 10th, 25th, 75th and 90th percentile data.)

Fringe Benefits
Local medium to large-size manufacturers typically report that benefits total 30-35% of the wage/salary base. That figure includes Workers Compensation premiums. It does not include the employer-paid portion of Social Security. Cafeteria Plans in which employees can trade off benefits for wage/salary compensation are common. Typical benefits: medical insurance (primarily company-paid/partially employee-paid), dental insurance, vision insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, 401K plan (defined contribution – not necessarily including company match) and possibly defined-benefit pension plan, vacation and sick leave. Other benefits sometimes offered – tuition reimbursement for relevant coursework, etc.

Labor – Management Relations
Kansas is an "at will" employment state. There are no unusual employment regulations or restrictions. Kansas is also a Right-To-Work state by 1958 amendment to the Kansas Constitution. The amendment was supported by 93 of the state's 105 counties and passed by a very substantial margin of 90,000 votes. Of the 28 states that prohibit required union membership (Right-To-Work or RTW states), 20 enacted RTW by state statute. Such statutory RTW laws are vulnerable to legislative reversal. Kansas is among the only eight states enacting RTW by state constitutional amendment. As such, Kansas RTW status can only be changed by a vote of the people, and is not vulnerable to legislative reversal. Unions in Kansas cannot attempt to collect "service fees" from workers who choose to not join the union.

There is a long-term trend of decreasing demand for unions in the Wichita area. Labor-management relations are generally mutually cooperative. Work stoppages are relatively rare and almost never locally originated (national strikes.) Currently about 7.2% of MSA private employment is unionized (only 0.9% outside of the major aircraft plants), versus 7.6% of the national private sector. The primary private sector union presence is in the major aircraft plants. There is virtually no union activity among the 200+ small to medium-sized aviation subcontract manufacturers, and a very low level of union activity among office employers. The vast majority of local companies are firmly non-union.

Wichita State University's Center for Economic Development & Business Research conducted an extensive 2008 survey of the South Central Kansas regional workforce. Union membership was determined to be a very low priority. Only 14% of respondents currently employed or seeking employment prefer a unionized workplace. Fully 34% prefer not to work in a unionized workplace. The remaining 53% indicated that the presence or absence of a union was of no particular importance to them either way.