Economy & Business

Business news

All this week, we’re talking about what many have described as the “skills gap” that’s opened up in this country – the disconnect between employers who have job open, many in highly skilled manufacturing trades, and the millions of unemployed or underemployed people in this country.

The perceived skills gap has been everywhere, it seems. The State of Wisconsin set out to study it and find solutions for connecting unemployed workers with existing jobs.

The Urban Economic Development Association will convene its annual summit to discuss it next week. And newspapers and magazines have devoted hundreds of column inches to exploring why this supposed gap has opened up.

Wisconsin Historical Society

Our Project Milwaukee: Help Wanted series this week is exploring the realities and myths of the "skills gap," the apparent mismatch between unemployed workers and existing jobs.

While Wisconsin continues shaking off the recession, thousands of workers still don’t have jobs. Yet businesses, particularly manufacturers, report having a difficult time filling certain positions. Several people actively addressing the problem defined it from their perspective.

Historic Photo Collection / Milwaukee Public Library

Many people are looking for work, while at the same time some employers say they can’t find skilled applicants to fill jobs. We’re reporting on the “skills gap” this week in our series, Project Milwaukee: Help Wanted.

The disconnect between jobs and workers is a relatively new phenomenon in Milwaukee. During the city’s manufacturing heyday, from the late 1800s until the 1970s, there were thousands of jobs in the Menomonee Valley alone – and a steady stream of workers to fill them.

Series Preview

Oct 26, 2012

There’s been increasing talk lately about the “skills gap” – the phenomenon of employers unable to find skilled workers. WUWM examines the issue in the series Project Milwaukee: Help Wanted.

The stories will air all next week on Morning Edition, Lake Effect and All Things Considered. WUWM also will host a community forum at MATC on Tuesday Oct. 30. We’ll ask expert panelists and audience members to talk about the role government, educators and other groups have, in connecting workers and jobs.

Over the past 15 years, the number of black and Hispanic businesses in Milwaukee has doubled. However, only 10,000 of the more than 112,000 companies in metro Milwaukee are minority-owned.

Visitors flocked to State Fair Park Thursday, where the annual fair began its 11-day run. Farmers from every county in Wisconsin are showing their livestock, in hopes of winning the Blue Ribbon. WUWM’s Marti Mikkelson found that one subject weighing heavily on many cattle owners’ minds is water.

Justin Claus

There has been some good news recently regarding the status of returning military veterans. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 vets nationwide dipped below 10 percent in June. That is a substantial drop from June of last year, when the rate topped 13 percent. While the trend is positive, more young veterans are out of work than the general population. WUWM’s Erin Toner profiles a Racine man who suspects his military disability status frightens employers.

Caterpillar
Mark Sardella, Flickr

Workers at the Caterpillar factory in South Milwaukee are closely watching a labor dispute at the company plant in Illinois. Caterpillar employees in Joliet have been on strike for three months. The company is seeking steep wage and pension concessions, and the union representing nearly 800 workers refuses to accept the demands. WUWM’s Erin Toner reports on speculation that the outcome of the dispute could be a bellwether for labor relations across the country.

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