The Board of Regents heard from experts on various important issues including the skills gap and student veterans in a meeting Thursday afternoon.
The regents invited two experts to talk to them and address their questions about the skills gap – the trend employers have experienced in not seeing enough trained workers to fill available jobs.
Rebekah Kowalski, a Manpower Group consultant, said employers across Wisconsin said they are looking for more talented workers. She said in the long run, this is more important than tax incentives for businesses.
“Employers made this linkage pretty early on, which is if Wisconsin cannot in a continuous and sustainable way keep stocking up the trout pond, so to speak, with the talent that we need, we are going to be in big, big trouble,” she said.
Kowalski reported in Wisconsin, 17.5 percent of small companies and 31 percent of large companies said they have “world-class, innovation talent” and 66 percent said they do not have the talent to be as innovative as they would like to be.
Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, said universities have to ensure they are giving students the proper education to find jobs.
“In the end, if higher education institutions don’t provide people with the skills required to get and keep a job, I think it’s pretty clear that the institutions will fail to serve their other missions to create a democratic culture and to give individuals an opportunity to participate fully in their times well beyond their economic roles,” he said.
With budget tightening going on nationwide and him insisting on more students going to college, Carnevale faced questions regarding the costs of higher education and how the regents can convince state lawmakers to appropriate more money towards it.
Carnevale said part of the solution might be ensuring students know the value and cost of their education.
This would include high schools offering classes to train students on how higher education can be financed. He also said colleges need to be more transparent in what the income is like in the career tracks they offer, giving students an idea of what the value of their studies are.
With Veterans Day coming up Sunday, the regents also addressed student veterans, the issues they face and the impact they have on UW System campuses, hearing from student veterans and campus veteran coordinators.
Regent Vice President Michael Falbo, who went to UW-Parkside after coming back from Vietnam, said he was pleased the regents were hearing about this issue and said they must focus on improving student veterans’ experience in college.
“I’m happy that today returning vets come to college in a very different climate,” he said. “It’s still not a perfect system. [It] never will be because we don’t know what all the needs are. … But we can and should play close attention to these challenges.”
The regents also approved a proposal discussed last month that would make universities’ athletic programs report ethics issues to the regents more often. The proposal also calls for yearly meetings with the regents to discuss whether programs are meeting certain goals in areas like academics and finances.