One major part of the study discusses how Wisconsin's workforce and job needs are out of sync with each other, not just in education levels required for the jobs, but also in the fact that the jobs aren't existing where the workers live.
In addition to the potential shortage of workers, a quantity issue, there is also a labor quality issue in the form of skill mismatch. A “skills gap” or “mismatch” occurs when despite a high number of job seekers, employers report difficulty finding appropriately skilled workers for the available positions. Such a circumstance suggests that the skill requirements of available jobs do not match those of people looking for work. Based on projections through 2022, Wisconsin faces a potential skill mismatch in that there are more jobs than workers available for low-skill positions requiring a high school diploma (Loritz et al. 2013). Conversely, there are not enough jobs for workers with a college education including associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree holders for the projected job (Loritz et al. 2013).Another part of the UW report indicates that instead of describing some of these skill mismatches as "brain drain", the bigger problem isn't as much educated people leaving Wisconsin, as much as it is the fact that the state can't get educated workers to come here.
The shortage of job openings for college degree holders, may partly explain the net negative migration of the young educated workers. Without adequate employment available in Wisconsin, those with college degrees seek jobs at their skill level in other states. This trend suggests that the issue of skill mismatch is at least partly geographic. There are jobs available that require higher education, but the jobs are not in the same place as degree-holding job seekers. The distance between jobs and appropriately skilled job seekers can lead to unemployment or underemployment despite there being both job openings and workers to fill them.
The spatial mismatch also occurs in many large cities, as entry-level job opportunities are often distant from the residences of appropriately skilled workers. The spatial disconnect between inner city residential areas and suburban job opportunities can contribute to the poor employment outcomes for those living in the inner city. Milwaukee, for example, exhibits trends that correspond to geographic mismatch. First, even after accounting for several factors, Blacks in Milwaukee commute far longer to get to their jobs, which suggests they are located further from employers who are offering employment at their skilllevel (Ewing, 2004). Further, there has been evidence of an oversupply of low-skill labor in the inner-city forcing low-skill workers, largely Blacks and Latinos, to commute to the suburbs for employment without any compensation via higher wages.
This geographic mismatch can also be seen in rural Wisconsin. Many larger employers located in smaller communities must draw from a very large geographic area to find a sufficient pool of workers. Given the lack of public transportation, workers are responsible for all commuting related costs. For higher paying jobs the commuting costs may be only a small factor as high wages can support the expense of the commute (a reliable car, gas, and time) and still make the job worthwhile. For lower paying jobs, however, the costs can be more constraining because the expenses represent a larger share of income at low wage levels, reducing both the feasibility of the commute and the incentive. Consequently, fewer workers may seek lower paying jobs that require a costly commute. This latter problem can also play out in urban areas; a lack of reliable transportation for commuting purposes can limit the potential pool of labor.
In addition to a changing age structure, migration also affects the pool of available workers. In Wisconsin, both in-migration and out-migration rates of the college-educated and workingage population are low compared to other states (Figures 1 and 2). Only a small share of people leaves the state in any given year. While this low rate of out-migration, particularly of the educated working age population (i.e., brain-drain) does erode the labor pool, perhaps more problematic is the even lower rate of in-migration. Outmigration by itself is not necessarily concerning if there is a sufficient offsetting flow of inmigration. Wisconsin, however, has not been able to successfully recruit residents (in-migrants) leading to negative net migration. In a sense, Wisconsin is not suffering from a brain-drain but more from the lack of brain-gain. We expect that more precise analysis would show the migration trends in Wisconsin are part of a more general rural to urban trend in the U.S., in that the out-migration from Wisconsin, a relatively rural state, flows primarily to the Twin Cities and Chicago area (Robinson et al, 2016).It's worthy to contrast those findings to what a prominent member of the state's business community says in the Journal-Sentinel article, as he blames the educational system and the workers themselves, instead of calling on businesses to take proactive steps to reduce these spatial and educational workforce gaps.
Tim Sullivan sees things differently. The former CEO of Bucyrus International served as Gov. Scott Walker's special consultant for business and workforce development a few years ago, and has been a prominent voice speaking on the so-called skills gap that many in industry say has left job openings unfilled....WHOA. First of all, this shows that Sullivan thinks that all forms of education should be geared towards the needs of business, much like how Assembly Speaker Robbin' Vos mocked the UW after the 2014 elections.
"If anything, we should be emphasizing our technical college system," he said.
In a report he prepared for Walker four years ago, Sullivan said some 34,000 students enrolled in the state's technical colleges already had four-year degrees - indicating they were struggling to find employment and were seeking more job-specific skills.
"Education's supposed to really provide you the skill sets to get you a job and to go through life being able to provide for yourself and your family," Sullivan said. "If you're not marrying or tying the educational system to the available job market, it's crazy."
The Republican agenda for next year also includes several changes for the University of Wisconsin, according to Vos. He said that he wants to ensure that faculty spend more time teaching, and that research is geared toward helping the state's economy.In the world of right-wingers like Tim Sullivan and Robbin' Vos, there is no value in an educated public that has an understanding of the outside world, or in the concept of any type of public good, but instead everything should be geared around the monetary value of what can be obtained by that education. And denigrating the concept of higher education isn't a good thing, as UW researcher Steven Deller is quoted in the Journal-Sentinel article as saying that the college-educated are the group that starts most businesses, a stat that Wisconsin ranked dead-last in for each of the last two years, according to the Kaufmann Foundation. And turning Wisconsin into an low-educated, low-quality of life place isn't something that's going to bring those highly-educated people here when they can choose to go to many other areas that are a lot more enjoyable to live in and to find a qualified pool of workers.
“Of course I want research, but I want to have research done in a way that focuses on growing our economy, not on ancient mating habits of whatever,” said Vos. “So we want to try to have priorities that are focused on growing our economy.”
Second of all, note that Sullivan doesn't say part of the answer involves raising wages to make a technical education a viable, attractive option for potential workers, and in encouraging start-ups that attract talent which leads to further growth. That's because oligarchs like Sullivan don't want well-paid employees and don't want start-ups- both of those developments threaten the market share and power of established Wisconsin businesses. And because those guys are the puppetmasters of the Wisconsin GOP, it explains why their policies have been based on funneling increasing amounts of power and money to a handful of currently-existing businesses over encouraging the economy to go in new directions, and in competing for the high-skill talent that can spark that new development.
I find it mystifying that this business community isn't demanding improvements in education and quality of life from the State Legislature, but apparently they prefer the easy, lazy way to operate over a more vibrant state economy that might have more competition, but could also help all sizes of businesses, and make Wisconsin more attractive for people to relocate to. That regressive mentality goes a long way toward explaining why this state's economy continues to flounder and lag most of our neighbors, and it won't change until oligarchs like Tim Sullivan and their puppet legislators are taken out of the equation when it comes to determining the direction of the state's economic policy.