Kansas Workforce ONE helps companies find employees, helps employees find work and helps released prisoners find jobs. Workforce ONE met with Pratt Area Chamber of Commerce members Sept. 14 to share what their company can do for employers.

Finding qualified workers can be a challenge for employers. It's not unusual for an employer to say they have a hard time finding people who want work and are willing to work.

With a low unemployment rate, its difficult to find workers, said Tucky Allen, Kansas Workforce ONE business services director, during a recent visit with Pratt Area Chamber of Commerce members.

Kansas Workforce ONE is a Kansas Works program designed to help employers find the employees it needs whether its a few new hires or a mass recruitment.

There is a strong need for Workforce ONE because hiring is very difficult and retention is even more difficult. It's especially hard to find workers in small communities. Its also hard to find the unemployed youth in communities, Allen said.

Workforce ONE hosts job fairs, helps process applications and provides financial assistance for on-the-job training. Workforce ONE can reimburse the employer up to 50 percent of the salary rate for on-the-job training. They can go up to $3,000 for training. And that's real money given to the employer, not a tax incentive.

"We will pay the employer for on-the-job training," Allen said.

The bottom line is Workforce ONE wants to help people find good jobs.

Besides finding employees, Workforce ONE also has rapid response services in the event of layoffs. Help is available for both the employees and employers. When a layoff happens, a Rapid Response team will come to the worksite and provide information to employees about unemployment insurance, educational opportunities and how to deal with both the financial and personal issues dealing with unemployment.

Funding for Workforce ONE comes from the Department of Labor that has $1.5 million for those who are laid off. The unemployment break down is 25 in school and 75 percent out of school. The age group from 16-24 has the highest percentage of those out of work, Allen said.

Martin Pena, Kansas Workforce ONE employment specialist, said is was hard to find out of school youth. And once they are located, Workforce ONE helps them with soft skills necessary for the workforce.

Work skills are one thing but employers want workers with good soft skills like showing up for work on time and every day, have a good attitude, knowing how to dress properly and have good manners. Workshops are available to help develop these soft skills.

Workforce ONE wants to find these local youth and let them know what jobs are available as well as provide training for that job.

"We want to educate kids on what's here. We have to focus on our youth," Allen said.

Besides working with businesses, Workforce ONE also offers vocational rehabilitation for people coming out of the prison system, said Tom Snyder, Kansas Workforce ONE business account manager.

They start working with them four months before they come out of prison to help them get ready to re-enter the workforce, Snyder said.

Workforce ONE works with employers to get them involved with hiring these recent releases because it's better for them to be working than to be unemployed, Snyder said.

Some of the challenges with working with those released from the Department of Corrections is math skills, substance abuse and mental health issues. But Workforce ONE is willing to work with these problems and help these people get back to work.

Prisoners have a real fear about being free. They have come from a total control environment and don't know what to do so they need some extra help to adapt, Snyder said.

Another issue for prisoners is recidivism or the tendency to go back to a previous lifestyle. That is a problem for those out of prison. Having a good job helps with this situation. It gives the person a sense of responsibility and that is important because these people are going to be local neighbors, Allen said.

Workforce ONE continues to be involved once a person has a job. If the employer has any issues with a new hire, they can call Workforce ONE for assistance.

Several Pratt area employers are on the Workforce ONE Board of Directors so Pratt is well represented.

For more information about Workforce ONE, call 316-303-2906.