Project Milwaukee: Help Wanted

Uncovering the Truth Behind Wisconsin's Skills Gap

Ask local employers about the biggest challenge they face, and quite a few will cite the “skills gap.” Businesses say not enough local workers are prepared to fill skilled positions, a problem that only will worsen as Baby Boomers retire. From workers’ perspective, some jobs are not attractive, because they present no career track.

WUWM explored the disconnect between employers and workers in the series Project Milwaukee: Help Wanted. WUWM News reporters and Lake Effect producers addressed the skills gap, including its impact on the community and what leaders are doing to tackle the problem.

Expert panelists and audience members weighed in at a community forum in October of 2012 at MATC's downtown campus. The event focused on what role government, educators and other groups have in connecting workers and jobs.

Erin Toner

As we’ve been reporting this week, Wisconsin employers say they have plenty of decent-paying jobs open, but cannot find qualified workers. And the skills gap or shortage is expected to grow, as experienced baby-boomers retire. WUWM’s Erin Toner has Thursday’s installment of our series, Project Milwaukee: Help Wanted. She observed programs successfully pumping skilled job applicants into the pipeline. Yet she learned, that what’s working – is also what’s missing.

Businesses in the Milwaukee area say there are not enough skilled workers to fill available jobs.

We heard about that frustration Tuesday when WUWM’s LaToya Dennis spoke with local managers. Today, in our Project Milwaukee: Help Wanted series, we learn how people seeking jobs are striving to acquire the skills needed.

The challenges and efforts to bridge the employment gap among workers generally are at the lower end of the skills spectrum. But as we've heard during our series this week, employers are reporting the greatest degree of challenge in filling jobs requiring highly specialized skills. Jobs requiring engineering, chemistry, biology, or computer science skills often can't be filled with on-the-job or certificate level training.

As we heard in our last segment, the skills gap - as it affects workers in the Milwaukee area - is about both highly skilled workers and people with lesser skills. And while some employers are looking for workers with very specialized experience, nearly all employers say they need workers with so-called "soft skills" - a good and reliable work ethic, ability to learn and adapt to a job, and good communication skill. But even those skills are lacking in some workers. And so a local foundation - generally known more for its work in aging and childhood issues - has added support for workforce development in the inner city to its priorities.

The HIRE Center Helps Workers Retrain

Oct 31, 2012

All this week on Project Milwaukee: Help Wanted, we’re exploring the so-called skills gap and ways area business, governments, and workers are addressing it. Today on Lake Effect, we’re focusing on the workers themselves and will begin with a roundtable conversation with people at the HIRE Center, which is located inside Milwaukee Enterprise Center-South at 8th and National.

Foundry Casts Manufacturing In a Different Light

Oct 30, 2012
Waukesha Foundry

As our Project Milwaukee: Help Wanted series on the skills gap has progressed, we’ve heard from analysts about the importance of developing alliances between industry and education. One such alliance is already in place between a local company and university.

BCG data

Earlier on today's show, we heard Melanie Holmes, Vice President at Manpower Group, give details and analysis of that company's annual Talent Shortage Survey, in which almost half of the employers interviewed said they are experiencing difficulty in hiring for mission-critical positions.

Barnshaws, Flickr

All this week, we're examining the so-called "skills gap" - the apparent mismatch between employers with jobs to fill, and the pool of unemployed or underemployed workers that exists in southeastern Wisconsin - and around the country.

Businesses in Wisconsin have been adapting to the fact they cannot always find the qualified employees they need. The skills gap has been affecting industries from manufacturing to health care. In today’s installment of our series Project Milwaukee: Help Wanted, WUWM’s LaToya Dennis visited several companies to learn about the impact the skills shortage is having on them.

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.