Report: Tech is big in Kansas City, but needs more skilled workers

A new report suggests a strong tech sector in Kansas City needs more high-skill workers.
A new report suggests a strong tech sector in Kansas City needs more high-skill workers.

Kansas City’s high-tech sector is growing fast but is stymied by a shortage of qualified workers, said a report released Friday afternoon.

“There are simply not enough workers in the area with the technical skills to meet the demand of our region’s companies,” the report commissioned by the KC Tech Council said. “This number will not decrease unless our region does more to support tech workforce development.”

That same report, prepared by advertising and marketing firm VML, said only the health sector is growing faster and that “the tech industry has an overall economic impact on Kansas City of 9.5 percent.”

The report, the first done by the group that promotes Kansas City as a tech hub, said the region needs to promote science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, education.

While it found growth in enrollment and programs at universities in and around the metro area, the report said that “demand for computing employees is outpacing the supply of CS (computer science) graduates in both Kansas and Missouri, and legislators in Kansas and Missouri are failing to support CS education the way legislators in the nearby states of Arkansas and Indiana are.”

It concluded that nearly 94,000 workers in the area pull paychecks from tech-related jobs and that the numbers are growing. Of those, about 30,000 are workers with technical skills employed at companies such as wireless carrier Sprint, electronic medical records keeper Cerner and navigation device maker Garmin.

Another nearly 32,000 people are nontechnical managers, accountants, attorneys and other workers employed at tech-based companies. And more than 32,000 tech workers are employed in other industries. The report said those numbers are growing.

“This growth is not being met with the supply of skills,” the report said. “There is an opportunity to enrich our supply of skilled workers with legislative, industry-led change.”

In the last quarter of 2016, according to the report, nearly 4,700 unfilled tech jobs were posted in the Kansas City area.

As of late Friday afternoon, only the report’s executive summary had been released.

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Scott Canon: 816-234-4754, @ScottCanon