Article

Filling the Skilled Labor Gap

Posted by Rebecca Reinhardt  on Nov 25, 2015 06:00:00 AM

Topic: ALL

Technician fixing a device

The inability of employers being able to find skilled labor has been making headlines for the last few years and is a serious problem for many business owners. In the last few decades, the push from the educational systems was to obtain a four year college degree. Unfortunately, many of these graduates now are struggling to find employment. The skilled trade careers were considered “dirty jobs” in the past. There is strong need for better understanding and coordination of effort between employers regarding their work force needs and the educational institutions throughout the state. 

Building effective plans for regions across the state is critical. There are several groups that have been formed across the state working in collaboration with employers and education institutions. These groups are making a difference. 

The Industry Workforce Needs Coalition (IWNC) is a group of business leaders striving to foster business and educational partnerships and have created national funding mechanisms to support and expand Career and Technical Programs (CTE). These programs provide job specific technical skills for careers after high school and post-secondary education. More awareness is needed to help parents, students, and administrators understand the importance of these programs.

An increasing number of high schools have put an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). These programs are receiving support from employers with hopes of developing future employees. The support comes in monetary donations and hands-on activities.

The Northwest Wisconsin Engineering Consortium was formed to help Northwestern Wisconsin attract and help more engineers graduate through the area’s three major engineering universities. The three big UW engineering schools are in Madison, Platteville and Milwaukee. More often, these graduates do not want to live and work in Northern Wisconsin. The Chancellors are working close with employers and their needs and keeping graduates employed locally. Each engineering job creates ten more jobs due to the multiplying factor.

Along with many of these programs, the cost factor comes into play. Business owners are committing to this and are looking for partnerships with high schools and educational facilities. There is local support though Economic Development Corporations and many of their partners. Companies need to look to high schools and technical programs at local community colleges. Some companies are sponsoring high school students by assisting with tuition and hands-on training while they obtain their degree.

What can you do regarding the skilled labor gap?

  • Talk with your local leaders to see what programs are available to assist you with you company’s skilled labor needs.

  • Connect with student at the high school level, technical colleges, and attend educational sponsored job fairs to give students exposure to your company.

With the baby boomers exiting the workforce, we will have a large change in our working population in Wisconsin. We are quick to promote economic growth and job creation, but when you don’t have the trained labor to fill those jobs, the population shift will affect the state’s income, the housing industry, and many aspects of the overall economy. We need to all be collaborating together on this serious problem and work together to find solutions while also providing solid jobs for our children and future generations.


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