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Sep 15, 201511:34 AMInside Wisconsin

with Tom Still

Changing demands alter workforce strategies

(page 1 of 2)

Wisconsin’s workforce challenges are well-documented: Baby boomers are aging out of their careers and “brain drain,” while often overstated, is costing the state some of its young talent.

A bigger problem may be Wisconsin’s industry mix. Are its dominant industries — agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism — sectors in which major job and pay growth is expected?

The answer is largely “no,” even though those sectors are vital to the Wisconsin economy and will continue to produce wealth and value for generations to come. As job producers, however, they are somewhat static. That’s why state policymakers need to keep industry diversity in mind as they consider laws, regulations, and incentives to attract and retain jobs.

Making sure young people have pathways into Wisconsin jobs was the theme of a Sept. 10 hearing before the Assembly Speaker’s Taskforce on Youth Workforce Readiness. Chaired by Rep. Bob Kulp, a successful small businessman from Stratford in central Wisconsin, the panel heard from a mix of trade groups, school systems, advocates for people with disabilities, and apprenticeship experts during a day-long Capitol session.

Kulp is a roofing contractor who has branched into energy efficient technologies within his business to keep it competitive. He sees workforce gaps daily, not only in Wisconsin, but through his role as vice president of the National Roofing Contractors Association.

Those kinds of private-sector perspectives will be helpful as this Assembly group weighs what works and what doesn’t when it comes attracting and retaining young workers.

My own contribution to the discussion was simple enough: Be aware of where tomorrow’s jobs will be created.

As the economy continues to transform itself nationally, globally, and in Wisconsin, sectors outside Wisconsin’s Big Three are producing comparable — if not greater — numbers of jobs. Quite often, those emerging sectors are yielding the best-paying jobs, as well. National forecasts help to tell the story: 

Total employment is expected to increase nationally by 14% by 2020, starting with a 2010 base, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That follows a 2% decline in 2000–10. However, the 20.5 million jobs expected to be added by 2020 will not be evenly distributed across major industry and occupational groups. Changes in consumer demand, improvements in technology and other factors will contribute to the nation’s changing employment structure.

The Georgetown University Center on the Economy and Workforce took it a step further two years ago with state-specific figures that help to understand Wisconsin’s need for workers with post-secondary education and training.

(Continued)

Sep 16, 2015 10:06 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Our daughter will participate in the first youth apprenticeship in mechanical engineering at Kipp Corp. It's a program between Wi Dept of Workforce Development and high schools. She must work 460 hrs in her senior year to get 2 course credits and a certificate. Most apprenticeships were in biotech. This is a fabulous opportunity for youth and WI companies.

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Tom Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal.

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