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Empowering Workforce Excellence through Local Education

Training and education are essential for building a productive workforce. In Hays, local partners provide tailored training programs to meet the specific needs of employers.

Fort Hays State University (FHSU) is a regional comprehensive university in Hays, Kansas, recognized as one of the top college towns in America among small cities. With over 13,000 students and approximately 350 faculty, FHSU is known for its innovation and entrepreneurial spirit.

FHSU integrates advanced computer and telecommunications technology into both educational settings and the workplace, making it a leader in distance education through its Virtual College. The university offers three teaching modalities:

On-Campus: Serving about 4,500 students annually.

Virtual College: Enrolling around 5,000 students from Kansas, nearly all 50 states, and U.S. Armed Services personnel internationally.

China Programs: Partnering with universities in China to educate approximately 3,500 students.
FHSU has a strong tradition of addressing the needs of western Kansas and beyond, providing invaluable support to the community, institutions, and businesses. Here are a few examples of its impact:

Fort Hays State University: Addressing Community and Industry Needs

A change in regulations under the federal No Child Left Behind Act threatened to leave a segment of public school teachers without certification about a decade ago. In response, Fort Hays State University (FHSU) quickly established accessible online courses to fill the gap, ensuring that teachers could maintain their certification and continue to educate future generations.

When the petroleum industry expressed a need for more highly trained workers, FHSU collaborated with the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association to develop a specialized petroleum geologist program, addressing the industry’s demand for skilled professionals.

Through its Department of Informatics, FHSU serves as a local and regional academy for Cisco Systems, the global leader in networking for the Internet. The U.S. government has recognized the university as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance, highlighting its commitment to cybersecurity education.

FHSU frequently partners with local governments and the Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development to provide training and services to new and expanding businesses, supporting economic growth in the region.

With the lowest tuition in the region, FHSU offers students hands-on learning experiences with close faculty attention, preparing them with a global perspective, professional skills, and the confidence to pursue successful careers. Students can choose from majors in more than 30 academic departments across four colleges and the Graduate School, ensuring a comprehensive and diverse educational experience.


Innovative Training for Tomorrow’s Workforce

North Central Kansas Technical College (NCKTC) is dedicated to being a leader in innovative workforce development and a premier learning resource for the evolving needs of business and industry. NCKTC offers 13 programs of study and six short-term courses across various disciplines, including:

Building and Trades

In addition to its comprehensive programs, NCKTC collaborates with employers to create customized training plans tailored to meet specific business needs, ensuring a skilled and adaptable workforce.



Estimated median house or condo value in May 2024 was $210,000, compared to $442,500 nationwide.

In May 2024, Ellis County home prices were down 4.3% compared to last year, selling for a median price of $210K. On average, homes in Ellis County sell after 47 days on the market compared to 36 days last year. There were 27 homes sold in May this year, down from 32 last year.

Median gross rent in May 2024 was $990.

Cost of Living

May 2024 cost of living index in Ellis County: 80.4% which means the total cost of housing, food, childcare, transportation, healthcare, taxes, and other necessities is 19.6% lower than the U.S. average and 3.2% higher than the average for Kansas.

(The low U.S. average is 100)


Employment Statistics

2019 January February March April May June July August September October November December
Civilian Labor Force16,77816,76716,65216,07616,79117,08016,90316,67917,15317,302
Civilian Labor Force16,74416,81316,76116,75316,84217.18717,05716,79119,98117,14317,10117,048
Civilian Labor Force16,92116,91016,98616,79216,73216,97917,27417,08617,13417,14017,14716,902
Civilian Labor Force17,55617,52617,53217,52317,44517,60717,34417,20617,19617,04217,07816,843
Civilian Labor Force17,97517,96218,16718,01517,84717,96417,89117,62917,50117,63117,67517,564
Civilian Labor Force21,01921,15421,27521,11421,20821,15820,91920,65020,87321,06221,09620,859

Understanding Workforce Mobility in Ellis County

Residents of Western Kansas have a long history of traveling for their needs, including retail shopping, entertainment, and employment. The nine-county Ellis County Labor Basin, which encompasses the counties surrounding Ellis, constitutes the majority of our commuting workforce. According to recent data, 65% of the labor pool is willing to commute up to 30 minutes each way, while 21% would commute up to 45 minutes each way. The willingness to commute is significantly influenced by the wages offered. For more detailed information, read the full report here.

Ellis County Labor Basin Report

Grow Hays collaborated with the Docking Institute at Fort Hays State University to conduct a comprehensive Labor Basin Analysis of Ellis County. This report offers valuable insights into labor availability, including the “Available Labor Pool,” representing individuals seeking employment or interested in new job opportunities.

Key findings from the Docking Institute’s independent analysis include:

Population and Labor Force
  • Population of Labor Basin: The Ellis County Labor Basin has a population of 82,830.
  • Civilian Labor Force: There are 45,367 individuals in the Civilian Labor Force.
  • Available Labor Pool: The Available Labor Pool consists of 25,697 individuals.
Non-Working Members
  • Currently Looking for Work: An estimated 1,337 (5.2%) non-working members are actively seeking employment.
  • Interested in Working: Around 3,790 (14.7%) non-working members are interested in employment given the right opportunities.
Working Members
  • Currently Looking for Work: About 3,622 (14.1%) working members are actively looking for new jobs.
  • Interested in Different Jobs: Approximately 16,948 (66.0%) working members are open to new job opportunities.
Education and Demographics
  • Education Level: Over four-fifths (82.8%) of the Available Labor Pool have at least some college experience, and almost all (99.2%) have at least a high school diploma.
  • Average Age and Gender: The average age is around 40 years old, and women make up more than half (56.2%) of the Pool.
Employment Sectors
  • General Laborers: Almost 18% of the Available Labor Pool are employed as general laborers.
  • Government/Technical/High Skill: An additional 5.1% work in government services or technical/high skill blue-collar occupations.
  • Service Sector Jobs: About 40% of the Pool work in service sector jobs.
  • Professional White-Collar Jobs: Approximately 17.1% are in professional white-collar jobs.
  • Not Currently Working: A fifth (20%) are not currently employed.
Willingness to Work and Commute
  • Willing to Change Fields: More than three-quarters (77.8%) are willing to work outside their primary field for new opportunities.
  • Commuting Willingness: More than a quarter (29%) are willing to commute up to 45 minutes one-way, while 72% will commute up to 30 minutes.
Desired Benefits

Top Desired Benefits: The four most important benefits are a good salary or hourly wage, on-the-job training (OJT) or paid training, good health benefits, and good retirement benefits.

Interest in New Jobs Based on Wage
  • At $10 an Hour: An estimated 3,836 members (15%) are interested.
  • At $15 an Hour: Approximately 10,134 (39%) are interested.
  • At $20 an Hour: Around 15,579 (61%) are interested.

Underemployed Members: Of the 20,570 employed members of the Available Labor Pool, 5,816 (28%) consider themselves underemployed.

Childcare Services
  • Have Childcare Services: About 4,558 (9.1%) of all survey respondents have childcare services.
  • Need Childcare Services: Another 895 (1.8%) report needing but lacking childcare services.
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