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Effort Underway to Retain Kansas Talent, Fill Critical Industry Jobs

Written by Emily Younger

A relatively new effort to attract and retain Kansas talent while filling high-wage, high-demand and critical-need occupations is proving to not only be successful but life-changing.

“It was the best thing that could have happened to me,” said JoJuan Gibson.

“It has allowed me to focus entirely on school without any hindrance at all,” said Collin Countryman.

Gibson, 43, and Countryman, 20, are recent Butler Community College (Butler) graduates and recipients of the Kansas Promise Scholarship, a scholarship created by the Kansas Legislature in 2021 to assist students attending Kansas community colleges and technical colleges who are enrolled in specific high-priority industry programs such as:

  • Information technology and security
  • Mental and physical healthcare
  • Advanced manufacturing and building trades
  • Early childhood education and development, OR
  • One additional field of study in one of these areas: agriculture, food and natural resources, education and training, law, public safety, corrections, and security or distribution of logistics.

Gibson, a father of three and a former car salesman, received his associate degree in construction technology in May 2023.

He decided to go back to school at the age of 41 after he was laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Kansas Promise Scholarship was advertised. I thought, ‘I can do that,’” the California native explained. “Thanks to the scholarship I didn’t have to worry about money during school. I could concentrate on my courses and family.”

JoJuan Gibson, a father of three and a former car salesman, received his associate degree in construction technology in May 2023 from Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas.

Countryman, who received his associate degree in cybersecurity, echoed that sentiment, saying the scholarship allowed him to graduate debt free.

Kansas Promise students must also agree to live and work in Kansas for at least two years following graduation.

Countryman, who plans to pursue a career in information technology, said Kansas is home and he intends on staying near the Wichita region for many more years to come.

“I am able to achieve that easily,” Countryman said. “There is a need for cybersecurity specialists in the Wichita region so there is a very wide market for me to grow professionally.”

“I am happy to spend more time in Kansas. Coming from Los Angeles in 2004, Kansas was a bit of a culture shock, but I really enjoy the landscape especially the easy access to camping, fishing and lakes. I also don’t have to spend a majority of my time commuting to and from work,” Gibson said.

Gibson, who is working as a painter and maintenance repair technician, started his own construction and remodeling business while attending Butler. He said he looks forward to the day he can fully transition to his business.

Collin Countryman received his associate degree in cybersecurity from Butler Community College, El Dorado, Kansas in May of 2023.

Program Aids in State's Economy, Future Workforce

Butler reports the Kansas Promise Scholarship program has aided in its student-recruitment efforts and graduation rates. In 2021, Butler reports 143 of its students were awarded the scholarship and 240 students and counting have received it in 2022.

“Students are taking advantage of the Kansas Promise Program to earn their Butler degree or certificate without paying out of pocket for tuition, fees, books and required materials. It opens the door for students who may not have previously been eligible for need-based aid. In addition to traditional students, this scholarship is a great opportunity for nontraditional students who are changing career paths and want to advance their new career,” said Butler Financial Aid Counselor Gabrielle Hoffmann.

Career development, specifically investing in the future workforce is key to the Wichita region and the state’s continued economic success, according to Butler’s Associate Vice President of Student Services Dr. Jessica Ohman.

“Skilled workers are essential for the growth and development of any economy, and the Greater Wichita region is no exception. By keeping talent in the region, it ensures that there is a steady supply of skilled workers for the businesses and industries that operate here which can lead to increased economic growth and development,” said Dr. Jessica Ohman.

The Kansas Promise Scholarship may be used for up to a per-student lifetime total of 68 credit hours or $20,000, whichever occurs first. Thirty-two Kansas institutions have Promise Scholarship-approved programs. Click here to see the complete list and additional eligibility requirements.

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