There are lots of job openings in south-central Kansas.
And they are not just low-wage jobs in stores and fast-food restaurants (although there are plenty of those, too, job experts say).
Some of the openings are for jobs that pay as much as $35 an hour for one to two years of post-secondary training or education, while a number of others require master’s or bachelor’s degrees specific to positions that can pay as much as $50 an hour or more.
That’s according to the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas, whose second quarter 2017 report said there were more than 3,200 job openings at 396 companies in the 10-county region that includes Wichita.
“I do think that you are seeing, across the board in all industries, a hiring mode is under way,” said Keith Lawing, president and CEO of the Workforce Alliance.
It’s a function of an improving economy as well as workers retiring.
“We have … a demographic shift right now, especially in some of those industries, where a huge percentage of their work force is getting ready to retire,” Lawing said.
Those open jobs are in five industry clusters that have been identified as economic growth sectors under the Blueprint for Regional Economic Growth, a public and private initiative. The industry sectors are: Advanced manufacturing/materials and aviation; data and information technology; health care; oil and gas; and transportation and logistics.
The report doesn’t account for high-wage jobs in other industries that a Kansas Department of Labor report identified in 2016. That report said there is strong demand for in south-central Kansas now and through 2026 for positions such as elementary and secondary school teachers, electricians, and accountants and auditors, all of which require some form of training or college degree.
While a number of the industry-specific jobs available in the region require bachelor’s degrees or higher, many others require technical training or associate’s degrees that can be obtained in less than half the time of a four-year college education.
Money may be available in some cases to help pay for technical training or an associate’s degree for those who want to find work in particular fields, Lawing said.
“It really does vary by individual,” he said.
He encouraged those seeking a new job to visit the Workforce Alliance at 2021 N. Amidon, Suite 1100, or call (316) 771-6800. The nonprofit manages and administers employment and training programs, and has counselors available to help people look for a job because they were laid off or are seeking a new career.
Sheree Utash, president of Wichita Area Technical College, whose programs are geared toward providing training in the region’s five industry clusters, said she’s also seen an increase in demand for more workers.
“Still, we cannot produce enough CNC [computer numerical control] operators, machinists, welders, aviation composite technicians and non-destructive testing [specialists] … to meet the need of the industry in the greater Wichita region,” Utash said.
For example, Wichita’s largest employer and manufacturer, Spirit AeroSystems, generally needs to hire hundreds of workers annually to keep up with its production demand and fill jobs lost to attrition, said company spokesman Jarrod Bartlett.
And that might be the reason why the industry cluster with the most job openings at the end of the second quarter was manufacturing.
The manufacturing sector had 540 job openings, two-thirds of which were for positions requiring a high school or general education diploma up to an associate’s degree. Those jobs included entry-level production and assembly positions paying between $8.58 an hour and $20.09 an hour with a high school diploma or GED, to a production or assembly lead paying between $17.19 an hour and $35.35 an hour, with an associate’s degree. The highest paying job opening in that sector was for a quality assurance research senior engineer paying between $25.54 and $69.57 an hour, with a graduate or post-graduate degree.
Health care had the second-highest number of job openings among the five industry sectors. Just as in manufacturing, more than half of the open jobs required a high school diploma or GED up to an associate’s degree. The highest demand was for positions in direct patient care, especially for registered nurses with an associate’s degree as well as physical and occupational therapy assistants and respiratory therapists. Hourly wages varied from $8.13 an hour to $11.76 an hour for a physical therapy aide or patient transporter, to between $19.87 an hour and $36.81 an hour for a nurse with an associate’s degree. The highest paid open positions in health care were for physicians, surgeons and health care administrators and lawyers at more than $90 an hour.
In the transportation and logistics sector, there were 209 open jobs. Of those, 122 were for positions only requiring a high school diploma or equivalent. They include delivery drivers, dispatchers and warehouse clerks, with hourly wages between $7.93 an hour and $18.15 an hour. The remaining 87 jobs required an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, and included purchasing managers, truck drivers with a commercial driver’s license, and automotive mechanics. Hourly wages for those positions were between $12.71 and $51.31.
The data and information technology cluster is one where the bulk of the job openings — 102 of the 150 total — require a bachelor’s degree or higher. At the low end, those jobs pay an hourly wage of $19.32. At the top end, a director of risk management or director of privacy and security can make between $36.94 an hour and more than $90 an hour. Still, the work can be lucrative even for a service desk worker with a high school education, or a help desk technician with a technical certificate or credential. The hourly wages for those positions are between $10.80 and $28.57 for someone with a high school diploma, and between $13.93 and $39.07 for someone with a certificate or credential.
Oil and gas
The oil and gas industry had the fewest job openings in the quarter, at 114. The bulk of the openings were split between workers with a high school diploma (37) or a bachelor’s degree (56). For a production laborer or refinery technician with a high school diploma, the hourly wage is between $8.46 and $37.11. For the worker who has a bachelor’s degree and works as an accountant or marketing manager, the hourly wage is $18.84 to more than $90.
Top 10 high-demand, high-wage jobs
Below are the 10 jobs in the Wichita area that are in demand now and are expected to remain so through 2026.
Median annual wage
General and operations manager
Sales representative, wholesale and manufacturing
Accountant and auditor
Elementary school teacher
Secondary school teacher
Aircraft mechanic/service technician
Source: Kansas Department of Labor