Why one Kansas university is relocating students for job training

There's been a lot of talk lately about the nationwide skills gaps reported by employers. A 2016 PayScale survey found 50% of respondents said their companies were unable to fill open positions for lack of qualified workers. And in a separate survey of 1,285 recruiting agency professionals, 75% of respondents cited a "skills shortage."

To help alleviate this issue in Wichita, Kansas, Wichita State University Campus of Applied Sciences and Technology (WSU Tech) implemented a program designed to relocate individuals to the Wichita area for job training and employment, reports Riia O'Donnell for Education Dive.

The scholarship program, called Wichita Promise MOVE, provides eligible students with certifications and credentials from WSU Tech, personal career coaching, and a guaranteed job interview in the Wichita area.

To entice students to relocate, the program will pay tuition, moving, and living expenses for students who live at least 75 miles outside of Wichita. Students who complete the program are also eligible for a potential sign-on bonus.

So far, Wichita Promise MOVE has relocated 32 individuals from 14 states, and has another 18 enrollees preparing to move. Students are training to enter the aviation and manufacturing industries—either in aviation sheet metal assembly or process mechanic painting—and most have jobs waiting for them at Textron Aviation and Spirit AeroSystems Inc.

Like WSU Tech, a number of colleges and universities across the United States are working to close the skills gap. For example, higher education, community, and business leaders have partnered to create the Midwest Cyber Center (MC2) to fill cybersecurity positions in St. Louis.

During the 18-month program, MC2 apprentices participate in on-the-job training while also completing online coursework offered by the center's 10 college and university partners, which include Lewis & Clark Community College, Saint Louis University, and the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

While in the program, apprentices earn $15 to $24 per hour, half of which is paid by their employer and half of which is paid by MC2 grant funding. When they graduate, they receive a stackable certification.

Some companies, like Amazon, are also working to close the skills gap in growing industries. The Career Choice program at Amazon pays 95% of fees for employees interested in earning a degree or certification in what the company predicts will be high-demand occupations, such as transportation, health care, and mechanical and skilled trades (WSU Tech site, accessed 11/6; O'Donnell, Education Dive, 11/1).  


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