A recent report showed Wisconsin is experiencing a severe shortfall of skilled laborers in the workforce, something that could be harmful to the state’s growth.
Competitive Wisconsin released a report this week that said various employers are unable to find workers as a result of the skills gap among younger workers and elderly workers who are retiring.
According to co-chair of the Be Bold 2 report Linda Salchenberger, a number and a wide range of people need to contribute to solve this problem.
“Our work makes clear that talent development cannot be a spectator sport,” Salchenberger said. “Parents, students, teachers, counselors, employers and workers must all participate in strengthening local economic capacity and building better communities.”
The report said a way to solve this problem is by creating the new Talent Council, an initiative that would receive $100 million in funds to ensure Wisconsin workers are broadening their skills in a frequently changing jobs market.
Among other ideas, the report suggested employers offer more internships and “experiential learning,” as it would allow younger workers to get a head start and expose them to the workforce.
The report said fixing the problem is essential because the state’s most important economic sectors would not have enough workers.
Gov. Scott Walker thanked Competitive Wisconsin in a statement for releasing the report, adding its past report led to his creation of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
“Employers are still struggling to get enough skilled workers to fill the jobs that are currently available,” Walker said in the statement. “This report draws attention to the need to solve this skills gap. [In] my next budget, we will make dynamic changes in workforce development to ultimately help address the current skills gap.”
University of Wisconsin System President Kevin Reilly said the report “enriches our understanding” of the issue. He said UW schools have graduated more students with science, technology, engineering and mathematics than in past years, adding research that leads to well-paying jobs will continue to strengthen the state’s economy.
Rep. Mark Honadel, R-South Milwaukee, said he believes Wisconsin can create a stronger and more qualified workforce by ensuring high school graduates know specific sets of skills.
“When students leave school, it’s important that they come out with some good, basic math skills,” he said. “That is step number one.”
Honadel, who worked in the steel welding industry for 20 years, noted he met many individuals who were fired or performed poorly because they did not have the necessary knowledge.
He also said he believes K12 schools have “failed” in their ability to teach children the skills they need in order to succeed in the workforce. Improving education standards at the high school level especially, he added, would ensure the goal is met.
“The key is that children that are coming out of K12 need to have a firm understanding of mathematics, decimal and fraction conversions and measurement,” Honadel said.
John Dipko, Department of Workforce Development spokesperson, said there are multiple ways DWD has been looking to address this problem, such as the College and Workforce Readiness Council.
The council aims to “enhance education and career readiness” in schools that are relevant to today’s workforce as well as promote “rewarding” areas like manufacturing to students from an early age.