Gov. Laura Kelly announces the creation of the Office of Registered Apprenticeship during a news conference Tuesday at Washburn Tech in Topeka.(Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Gov. Laura Kelly created the Office of Registered Apprenticeship Tuesday, emphasizing statewide economic growth under her administration and new employment opportunities.
Standing in a Washburn Tech auto garage, the Democratic governor said the new office would expand training opportunities for Kansans, especially for nontraditional workforce members, including women, formerly incarcerated people, people of color and those with high school educations.
“This is really very, very important, and so by doing this, just like we did with the Office of Broadband Development, we elevate the issue and really serve Kansans and Kansas businesses,” Kelly said.
Currently 3,400 Kansans are in a registered apprenticeship program. Across the state, there are 212 active recognized registered apprenticeships.
The office, created by executive order, will work on modernizing the apprenticeship program, as well as evaluating the scope and impact of current registered apprenticeships. Kelly cited health care, education, aerospace and agriculture businesses as potential targets for the office.
Mike Strohschein, Washburn Tech dean, announced the launch of the school’s own registered apprenticeship program at the news conference. The program, which is designed to connect students with employers, will start at the end of the month.
“We have to do college differently, work differently, and train differently to continue to produce and recruit highly technical and skilled employees to our Kansas communities,” Strohschein said.
Lt. Gov. and Commerce secretary David Toland said $13.5 billion has been invested in the state by the private sector since January 2019, with nearly 50,000 jobs either created or retained under Kelly’s administration. The newly created office will help focus this economic growth, Toland said.
“We are booming in nearly every sector, and we are booming in nearly every geography. Urban, suburban and rural places are all seeing growth levels that are unprecedented certainly in my lifetime,” Toland said. “This means as a state we have some happy problems, which relate to how we manage this level of growth.”
Answering questions after the news conference, Kelly mentioned other job training efforts undertaken by her administration, including investments in the JAG-K and Second Chance programs.
Kelly said she is currently working to expand the JAG-K program into the juvenile correction system, as well as working with the private sector to build training centers at correctional facilities to improve recidivism rates for incarcerated people.
“We want them to be highly skilled, highly trained, with a job so the chance of recidivism is greatly reduced and they can become productive taxpaying citizens that stay in the community,” Kelly said.
Kelly and Toland’s emphasis on job retention and training pushes back against criticism from Kelly’s rival, Republican gubernatorial candidate Derek Schmidt. Schmidt is running on a pro-economic, pro-job platform and has criticized Kelly on multiple occasions for her response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying she failed to respond adequately with helping small businesses recover from the impact of the pandemic, as well as lost thousands of jobs during the pandemic.
Just ahead of Kelly’s news conference, Schmidt announced a proposed state sales tax exemption on diaper and feminine hygiene products, citing high inflation.
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