Does Wisconsin's Workforce Suffer from a Skills Gap?

According to the business community, including the State Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce lobby, Wisconsin has a "skills gap." Put simply, that means employers cannot find people with the right skills and qualifications to hire for current job openings. Some economists, however, dispute these accounts. Their economic data show that the inability of Wisconsin businesses to fill skilled jobs has more to do with the wages on offer, the inadequacy of business investment in training, and some inefficiencies in the employment practices of some firms.

Who is right? You be the judge. The links below access a report (in pdf format) from a business group, Competitive Wisconsin, and a research study (in pdf format) from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Center for Economic Development.

Growing Wisconsin's Talent Pool, Competitive Wisconsin, April 1. 2012.

The Myth of a Skills Gap in Wisconsin: Research Update, Mark V. Levine, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Economic Development, March 2013.



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A Strong Workforce for a Strong Wisconsin

Wisconsin citizens are proud of our state’s long tradition of hard work and innovation. We expect our children to grow up with a strong work ethic and to contribute to the prosperity of our communities. Over the last two years Wisconsin has lost ground in jobs. Our increase in jobs is half that of the US average and less than any neighboring state. We can bring jobs back to Wisconsin by investing in education, job training, public transit, and infrastructure on the ground and in cyberspace. All sectors of Wisconsin’s economy are vital to growth. Family farms, factories, construction, high tech, the service sector, and small businesses together will create our state’s sustainable future.

Politicians promised a great boom in jobs if middle-class Wisconsinites would give up their rights to bargain for higher wages and safer working conditions, pay more for health care, and shield corporations from lawsuits over product safety and fair treatment of workers. If only low income Wisconsinites would give up some or all of their health care and food assistance, jobs would pile up like snow in January. The people of Wisconsin held up their end of the bargain, but the jobs never showed up. Why? Because taking money out of the pockets of those who spend locally hurts local economies. A sinking tide lowers all boats.

The graphs below show how Wisconsin is faring compared to the whole country and compared to our neighboring states:



As the country recovered from the Bush Recession, Wisconsin has been stuck in its own Walker Recession. Along with few employment opportunities came a drop in average wages and family income.

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