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Oct 31, 201710:45 AMInside Wisconsin

with Tom Still

As workforce growth slows, new approaches are needed to meet demand

(page 1 of 2)

Employers and others worried about the “skills gap” for years, often lamenting that workers weren’t prepared to perform the jobs for which they were hired.

Forget about the skills gap. The overriding concern in Wisconsin and many other states is a “quantity gap,” meaning there simply aren’t enough working-age people to go around — skilled or otherwise.

That message was reinforced at a recent meeting of the Tech Council Innovation Network in Madison, where the chief economist for the state’s labor department and a project leader for an arm of the Manpower Group talked about the depth of the problem and one emerging solution.

Dennis Winters, the chief economist for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Department, and Ryan Stultz of Manpower’s Experis arm agreed workforce growth will be less than one-half of 1% over the next 20 years. That’s because the population is aging, baby boomers are retiring, and there aren’t enough young workers in the pipeline to take their places.

Winters likened the situation to a high-school football team with eight players instead of 11 on the field at any given time. No matter how skilled those eight may be, he said, they can’t compete in an 11-player game.

“It’s going to get worse,” added Stultz, who noted 21% of manufacturing workers will retire in the next eight years and 24% of manufacturing workers are 55 or older.

Meanwhile, employers say the technical requirements for workers are growing as factory-floor automation, maintenance of sophisticated equipment, interaction with engineering, and software changes and improved diagnostic testing becomes the order of the day.

Finding and training workers in a world increasingly defined by the internet of things, robotics, and artificial intelligence is never easy — and it’s made harder if the pipeline is smaller.

One approach taking shape through a project supported by Manpower and Rockwell Automation, both Milwaukee-based, is the Academy of Advanced Manufacturing. It has the ambitious goal of training 1,000 returning military veterans per year for the kinds of high-tech production jobs the market craves.

The first cohort of workers will graduate in November from a 12-week course at a Rockwell site in Ohio. Another round will start in January in Milwaukee. Course offerings include industrial automation, controllers, networks, visualization and information software, drives and motors, instrumentation, and machine and plant floor safety. There’s also a professional skills training component that helps ease the transition to civilian life.


Old to new | New to old
Nov 1, 2017 10:24 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

After 27 years I am leaving the state and frankly giving up on trying to educate the business community on the needs of young workers and their families . After all with declining birth rates and an aging workforce state wide in the majority of counties, a key part is attracting young families or younger workers who will stay to create families. If you look at the upcoming workforce summit there is nothing on the agenda that relates to this. Not surprisingly the one county and city that took this on as economic development strategy 40 years ago Dane/Madison has the highest growth rate in the state including and influx of skilled younger workers. When the child care subsidy system worked well under Tommy Thompson you saw the widespread growth of big box stores etc. because there was a sudden increase in the workforce needed to staff them (due to child care and medicaid subsidies). The place that gets the young workers and their families will grow the rest will become large open spaces with a limited economy and minimal services for the few people who live there. I moved here because I saw a place that was doing a lot of innovative approaches (at least in Dane) I leave sadly a state where a lot of that energy has been destroyed mainly by corruption, a denial of science and an inability to adjust to new cultures or ideas even those of your own children. It is sad but then Wisconsin is the place where dreams go to die. And Dane county is the 21st century surrounded by an increasingly dying state.

Nov 2, 2017 04:33 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

New innovative approaches to boosting the younger workforce. Agree with training of vets but maybe someone in the business community should be pressuring legislators to pass DACA legislation to retain those workers and students? Or maybe get them to pass comprehensive immigration reform? Rare is the state that will be able to replace its aging workforce given the reduced birthrate of the existing population. And yes, I totally agree with the previous commenter that jobs and young people will go to states that provide support for education, provide cultural amenities and where the culture is open and welcoming. Spending 3 billion on education, transportation and support of small businesses and entrepreneurs would be a better future investment than sinking that in one foreign company. And spending your time on idiotic stuff like limiting women’s control of their healthcare decisions, voter ID, telling professors how and what to teach etc is not going to create that welcoming environment. Maybe we don’t need so much innovation but just some governmental common sense. Bob

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About This Blog

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



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