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.

Listen to Project Milwaukee reports beginning Monday, Oct. 29, and join us for community forum at MATC on Tuesday, Oct. 30.

Project Milwaukee executive producer Ann-Elise Henzl joined Bob Bach with a preview of the series. Here are some highlights of their conversation:

  • Numerous employers say the skills gap is the biggest issue they face. Melanie Holmes of Manpower says Manpower Group research backs up the assertion: “skilled trades is the number one job category that businesses are struggling to fill, on a U.S. basis.”
  • The skills gap causes challenges for employers and job applicants. Employers say they’ve had to turn away business because they don’t have all of their skilled posts filled. Meanwhile, many people looking for jobs are having a hard time entering or returning to the workforce. They’re willing to work, but they don’t have the skills companies are seeking.
  • Observers have a number of thoughts on why there is a disconnect between workers and jobs. Lyle Balistreri, president of the Milwaukee Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, says one reason is that the technical college system cannot always keep step with what employers need: “In some cases, the technical college system works very, very well with industry. In other cases, they’re always kind of Johnny-come-latelys when it comes to catching up with what the market demands, and it’s a very hard thing to deal with, because market demands change pretty quickly.”
  • There’s a need for skilled workers not just in traditional jobs, but also in the growing area of green jobs. Karen Gotzler with Urban Strategies says, “every sector is becoming more energy efficient, more environmentally friendly. So almost every industry has green jobs, it’s a question of what does it take to prepare people.”