Dec 1, 201610:35 AMMaking Madison
with Buckley Brinkman
You’re missing the point on manufacturing
(page 1 of 2)
I keep reading about how we need to create more jobs in order to boost our economy. These stories miss the point that jobs are not the issue — workers are. We are missing 20 million people in the current workforce and will need every available worker — and more — to keep the economy growing. Filling this body gap means finding workers in non-traditional places. Any organization looking to grow in the future will need to engage these new sources.
We’ve done a good job addressing the skills gap — continuing to align resources to train and engage available people. Unfortunately, all that good work will not be enough as that skills gap morphs into a body gap. We need more people to fill open jobs and grow our economy. There are more open opportunities than any time since the Great Recession. The Wisconsin unemployment rate is at 4.1% and Madison’s is a microscopic 2.6% — both numbers well below full employment rates. There are over 87,000 jobs open in Wisconsin and over 5 million in the entire U.S.
These numbers foretell the front edge of the body gap and demographic trends will make the situation even worse. The Boomers are retiring, revealing the 20-million worker shortfall in Generation X. This is not just a Wisconsin or Midwest problem. The entire developed world faces the same issue: not enough workers. In this environment, traditional workforce efforts face an uphill battle because everyone needs more people.
This means we will need to find workers in non-traditional places, requiring new efforts to tap the disabled, discouraged, and chronically unemployed. These efforts require coordinated and aligned efforts from business, government, education, and community organizations in order to bring these people into the workforce. Traditional training, recruiting, and outreach approaches will not be enough to find all the workers we need. This will not be easy and requires new thinking and new approaches. Even with these new approaches, maintaining our present workforce will be a struggle.
For Wisconsin — even with a flat workforce — we will need productivity growth of 30% or more to maintain our growth. We haven’t seen productivity improvement rates like that since World War II!
It’s tough to mobilize the correct resources because the body gap looks like the skills gap, but the solutions are very different. The body gap is still about connecting skilled workers with open jobs. The important difference is that there are not enough bodies for all those openings. The skills gap actions are all necessary — but not sufficient — to address the body gap. Effective action requires a comprehensive strategy encompassing the three Ts: talent, technology, and techniques.