The conversation around workforce has been shifting from just building up the state’s current labor pool to now also attracting new talent to the state. Tricia Braun, chief operating officer of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., said there’s been growing demand in the economic development community to address talent attraction at a state level.
Department of Workforce Development secretary Ray Allen put it a little differently.
“Workforce is the new economic development,” he said.
Buckley Brinkman, executive director and CEO of the Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity, said the optimistic forecast is for the state workforce to be flat over the next 15 years, while the pessimistic version shows it could be down by 40 percent. Either way, there are examples of companies turning away work because they don’t have the workforce they need, Brinkman said.
“That might be fine for an individual company, but when you start adding those companies together, you have an economy that’s not growing,” he said.
Wisconsin has consistently lost more people than it has gained for years. Part of that is retirees moving to warmer weather, but part of it is that Wisconsin is not attractive. As one of the few immigrants into Wisconsin, I have a different perspective than people who grew up here. Wisconsin has a great culture and great people, but you don’t really know that until you live here for a while. If you are looking in from the outside, it looks like a state with crappy weather, oppressive taxes, and a rust-belt economy. Unless there is a really compelling job or a family reason to move here, most people don’t. The fact that more and more jobs allow virtual offices helps Wisconsin companies fill some knowledge worker jobs, but it also means that Wisconsinites have less of a reason to stay in the state.
Wisconsin can’t do anything about the weather, so it needs to work on what it can to make it more attractive for a smart, mobile, young worker to move to Wisconsin.