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WMC: Skills Gap is Real, Employers Struggle with Hires

WMC Launches New Video Information Service on Business Issues
MADISON – Wisconsin employers continue to report they are having trouble finding qualified workers and there is a gap between job demands and worker skills, said WMC Foundation President Jim Morgan on Thursday.
“The skills gap is real in Wisconsin, and everything we are hearing from employers indicates they continue to struggle to fill jobs,” Morgan said. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce is the state’s chamber of commerce and largest business association. Morgan takes issue with two recent academic studies that call the skilled worker shortage a myth noting their research did not include any manufacturers. “My guess is if I did a sweeping indictment of the university system without ever talking to a professor, without ever attending a class, without ever going to a lecture, people would probably doubt the credibility of my work, and rightfully so. That’s what happened here. How can you tell the manufacturers in this state that they don’t have a problem when you have never talked to a single one of them?”
In contrast to the academic studies that reviewed high level labor data and other studies, WMC’s research included focus groups in 54 different communities including over 300 manufacturers, a state tour that included all 16 technical college districts and 1,200 business and education leaders, and two statewide conferences just to make sure that we had the background to understand and fix the problem.”
Click here to see a five-minute interview with Morgan regarding the skills gap. WMC is launching a new Wisconsin Business Voice video initiative aimed at delivering the business message online through taped interviews and other programming. Go to
Morgan said that about two years ago, manufacturers and other businesses began reporting significant trouble hiring workers even with high unemployment approaching 8 percent. Two common themes emerged: 1) increasing pressure on students to pursue four-year degrees and an out-of date stigma about manufacturing jobs resulting in fewer students interested in technical and skilled trades position and 2) a questioning of Wisconsin’s traditionally strong work ethic with employers sharing experiences of applicants opting for government assistance rather than employment.
And, the problem continues. The WMC Economic Outlook Survey conducted in May found that 55 percent of CEOs say they are having trouble finding workers, and of those 76 percent said that it is because of the lack of qualified applicants.
The WMC research directly contradicts a recent study from the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a UW-Milwaukee study that said Wisconsin does not have a skills gap. “Companies are telling us they have the equipment, the space, even the orders, they just can’t find the people,” added Morgan. “That is why they are committing their time, talent and resources to K-12 schools and technical colleges to ensure Wisconsin’s long-term economic success.”
Jim Morgan, (608) 258-3400





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