Cities want to grow and prosper. They start by cultivating a stable and steady flow of inspired human capital. But Wichita is losing its talent.
Watch this short video to learn more about the Human Capital Challenge and what it means for Wichita.
IDEAS, BRAINS, PERSPECTIVES.
Stop the leak.
Cities want to grow and prosper. They start by cultivating a stable and steady flow of inspired human capital. For decades, Wichita's aviation base proved a shining example.
But studying the size of Wichita's labor force over time, an alarming trend emerges. In several periods, while the U.S. is continually building its workforce, Wichita's labor force drops off, signifying an exodus of trained workers. While we continue to lead in aviation and technical training, we're losing workers.
Other cities aren’t seeing this, says James Chung, a Wichita native and business analyst. If Wichita were behaving like other cities, there would be about 10,000 more workers in the labor force at their peak earning and spending years, ages 35 to 54.
We’ve got this human capital in here that Wichita has invested in to educate, to train, to bring to productivity, and then there are things that happen where it sort of evaporates.James Chung
New technology in aviation manufacturing has made it possible to create more with fewer workers. The workers that once were needed are forced to either find new lines of work or relocate entirely.
Chung says other cities have done well with what he calls “creative destruction,” or the process of industries shifting and being re-born. As old industries collapse and new ones rise, workers need to be re-allocated from these old fields to the new fields. Wichita hasn't done this, Chung says.
We've got this human capital in here that Wichita has invested in to educate, to train, to bring to productivity, and then there are things that happen where it sort of evaporates.
Educational attainment has also been a weakness in Wichita. In the 1980s, Wichita was more educated than the average U.S. city — a big asset for businesses wanting to locate here. Since then, Wichita’s rate of education has slowed while other cities' have sped up, making that advantage essentially disappear.
In 1993, Wichita was employing 55,000 workers with at least a Bachelor's degree. Twenty years later, that number had only grown to 56,000. Meanwhile, the U.S. experienced a 6.3 percent growth in the employment of educated workers.
Other cities have combated the loss of skilled labor by providing new training, recruiting young talent and building new perceptions within the city to create a place workers want to be in. Wichita needs to do the same.