WMC workforce evaluation includes labor policy recommendations

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce’s latest workforce evaluation includes a number of policy recommendations aimed at improving the state’s labor outlook.

One of the recommendations aims to reach “disconnected groups,” such as people who’ve previously served prison time or had drug abuse problems.

WMC President and CEO Kurt Bauer is calling on business leaders in the state to keep an open mind about potential hires and their backgrounds. He says he’s already hearing from WMC members that are willing to do so.  

“Businesses need to give people a second, or third chance,” Bauer told WisBusiness.com.

He points out that for people coming out of prison, getting a job has been shown to reduce recidivism. And he says holding down a job “keeps people clean, and sober and productive.”

“We can’t afford to have people on the sidelines,” Bauer said.

The WMC Foundation is unveiling the report this morning at a joint event with Rockwell Automation in Milwaukee. The report focuses on improving the state’s workforce pipeline, highlighting financial incentives for “the most in-demand occupations.”

Those incentives could include debt forgiveness programs for college tuition, or even tax credits for people in certain “top-tier talent” jobs, according to Bauer.

He says WMC would prefer a “market-based solution” for the state’s workforce issues, but the reality is that many states and even foreign countries are vying for the same talent.

“We think all of those things should be on the table in the conversation about what it takes to lure talent to Wisconsin,” he said.

Report authors point to a number of positives about Wisconsin’s workforce: a strong work ethic, a high workforce participation rate, a “generally” well-educated population, and a continuing trend of growth in manufacturing jobs.

But the report also cites many negative factors: a very tight labor market, a lack of both technical and “soft” skills that are important to many industries, a rapidly aging population, difficulty with recruiting people from out of state, and a lack of opportunities for the state’s poor and otherwise disadvantaged residents.

Citing numbers from the state Department of Administration, WMC provides a map of the state showing how each county’s working-age population is changing. Only five counties had growth over 10 percent, while 15 counties had growth under 10 percent. The other 52 counties are all losing their working-age residents.

Another section of the report highlights the state’s $6.8 million investment into talent retention and attraction initiatives, which target military veterans and other groups.

Gov. Tony Evers’ recent budget proposal did not contain the $10 million requested by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. to fund these initiatives over the biennium.

“I would urge him to continue the WEDC talent attraction campaign,” Bauer said. “It’s only one piece of the puzzle, but it’s an important one.”

The report notes WMC members also support increased state funding for these efforts.

The report contains about 30 recommendations overall, covering topics such as promoting career awareness, promoting youth apprenticeships and internships, improving career pathways and “upskilling” existing workers.

See the full report here: http://www.wispolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Future-WI-Report_FINAL.pdf

See more: https://www.wmc.org/news/press-releases/wmc-foundation-report-details-need-for-talent-attraction-upskilling-of-workers/

–By Alex Moe