How much do you know?

Joel Simon suggests that, in the workplace at least, it’s probably more than you think. It’s not just the stuff in the job description. It’s the other things you pick up in the course of a career that can carry across to other fields.

“What you know matters,” Simon, vice president of workforce and economic development for the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, said at a workforce development seminar in Kansas City last week.

The demands of the workplace, of course, are constantly changing.

“So how we think about our skills and how and where they apply is very, very important,” Simon said. His group promotes “prior learning assessment,” that is, credit for the things you already know and putting all of that to good use.

The big-picture question, as Simon asks it: “Are we developing resilient, adaptable, lifelong learners?”

There’s an ongoing conversation in Kansas City about developing a more skilled and therefore more prosperous workforce, and Simon touched on a couple of themes in that conversation. One is the area’s number of working adults with some college but not a degree. For most people, completing that degree makes a big difference on the paycheck. The other is the need for focus on not just the jobs of the future but solid career paths.

“I think we get caught very often in helping people made the next move without looking at the long term,” Simon said.

And Kansas City has both strengths and weaknesses. It’s centrally located. It’s hard to get young entrepreneurs to move here from either coast – but once they get here they love it, said Marissa Vidler, founder of Clear Box Insights. And there’s “something about that Midwestern work ethic, that Midwestern sensibility,” she said.

“It feels like Kansas City is really on the verge of something,” she said.

Economists have said the area is lagging in attracting enough workers with bachelor’s degrees.

Madeline Romious, regional vice president for external affairs for AT&T Missouri, put it this way: “How do you keep really talented young people who are graduating high school and going to college someplace else?”

One more challenge: The STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – hold bright promise, but how do you sell a 14-year-old on a field with crying needs such as cybersecurity? Good jobs but not exciting ones.

“They’re not really sexy or fast paced,” Vidler said.


Coming soon

Be sure to check Saturday’s Examiner for the winter issue of the Eastern Jackson County Business Review. This edition is focused on how leisure and tourism contribute to the local economy. One quick tease: Bicycle enthusiasts – there are many, and they spend money – will be pleased to know that plans for one big metro network are a lot further along than many might think.


Fill it up

We shouldn’t be churlish with gas fluttering below $2 a gallon, but the other day I ran across confirmation of something I’ll guess many of us have suspected.

It came in one paragraph in the Wall Street Journal: “Typically, gas prices go up and down in tandem with crude oil, the main ingredient. But recently, oil prices have been falling much faster than gas prices. Drivers have paid at least $1 billion more for gasoline that they would have if the historical pattern had continued this year, according to government and industry statistics.”

Much is made of the supposed economic stimulus of lower gas prices. That extra $1 billion might have helped.

The numbers: On Tuesday, the average price of gas in Kansas City was $2.01, though it was a nickel or more lower in many places in Eastern Jackson County. That compares with a U.S. average of $2.19.8. The Kansas City average is down almost a quarter from a month ago and down 75 from a year ago.


Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s business editor. Reach him at 816-350-6313 or Follow him on Twitter @Jeff_Fox or @FoxEJC.