But I want to also take on the claim that those "bad demos" help to cause the state's alleged skills gap. As noted in a summary of the WTA report.
“Employers really haven’t experienced labor shortages to the degree that we’re expecting,” said Jeff Sachse, an economist with the state Department of Workforce Development. “The labor force is essentially going to be flat, and basically what we’re going to see is an employer base that’s going to struggle to find a sufficient amount of workers to remain in operation, much less to expand.”Well, sounds like the state and its employers needs more workers in certain "skilled trades" to replace the ones retiring, and they're worried about finding the younger folks to take those jobs in the future.
Sachse said state-level economic discussions on the skills gap — the lack of workers with the training to fill high-tech positions — has “to an extent over-shadowed and masked some of the demographic issues.”
David Egan-Robertson, a demographer in the University of Wisconsin’s Applied Population Laboratory, said the median age in Wisconsin was 38.4 in 2010, compared to a national average of 37.7. By the 2040 the gap is expected to triple, with Wisconsin at 42.4, two years older than the national median.
UW-Milwaukee Labor Professor Marc Levine has written extensively on this topic, and his most recent update from last year mentions that the alleged "skills gap" for welders in Milwaukee is no gap at all.
In 2010, Milwaukee ranked 4th among the nation’s 50 largest metro areas in the percentage of welders holding at least a high school diploma; 5th in the percentage of welders with at least some college; and 16th in the percentage of welders with at least an associate’s degree. In short, the data on educational attainment suggest that rather than facing a competitive “disadvantage,” on skills, Milwaukee ranks near the top of metro areas in the skills of its welding workforce. These data, combined with the analysis of the wages, employment, and educational attainment of Wisconsin welders in our original working paper – especially the analysis of [former Bucyrus CEO Tim] Sullivan’s move to low-skill Texas because of the alleged Milwaukee “skills gap” – leave little doubt that the welding “skills gap” is, indeed, a fake skills gap.The skilled work force is here is Wisconsin, so let's not fall for the CEOs line about the fact that they can't find workers. The solution seems pretty obvious to me - TRAIN THEM AND PAY THEM.
The WMC crowd has been mostly allergic to shelling out to train these workers themselves to productivity and shrink this "skills gap", instead allowing state taxpayers to foot the bill for initiatives such as expanding the ability of technical colleges to give scholarships and adding space in those schools for certain "high-need" fields. And state employers continue to refuse to pay competitive wages to attract labor to the Badger State, as Wisconsin continues to battle Iowa for the lowest average weekly manufacturing wage in the Midwest. Why would a young skilled worker stay in small-town Wisconsin when that same person could go to Minnesota, Illinois, or Michigan and make an average wage of $4 an hour more? You want to expand the chances of getting a skilled Wisconsin labor pool that's conducive to growth? Then pay what the market is bearing.
If our state's employers refuse to step up to the plate to pay skilled workers a decent salary, and if the state decides not to tax those employers to help pay for the investments that are required to provide a well-skilled work force, then the rest of us will be allowing the WMC crew to freeload off of their own negligence. In other words, to overcome these "demographic challenges" that the Wisconsin Taxpayers' Alliance describes, we as taxpayers are going to have to shell out to try to "solve" a problem that only exists because of the selfishness of the very Wisconsin oligarchs and the right-wing politicians that the WTA's directors overwhelmingly support.