As workforce growth slows, new approaches are needed to meet demand

Skills Gap

Employers and others worried about the “skills gap” for years, often lamenting that workers weren’t prepared to perform the jobs for which they were hired.

Forget about the skills gap. The overriding concern in Wisconsin and many other states is a “quantity gap,” meaning there simply aren’t enough working-age people to go around – skilled or otherwise.

That message was reinforced at a recent meeting of the Tech Council Innovation Network in Madison, where the chief economist for the state’s labor department and a project leader for an arm of Manpower Group, talked about the depth of the problem and one emerging solution.

Dennis Winters, the chief economist for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Department, and Ryan Stultz of Manpower’s Experis arm agreed workforce growth will be less than 0.5 percent over the next 20 years. That’s because the population is aging, baby boomers are retiring and there aren’t enough young workers in the pipeline to take their places.

Winters likened the situation to a high school football team with eight players instead of 11 on the field at any given time. No matter how skilled those eight may be, he said, they can’t compete in an 11-player game.

“It’s going to get worse,” added Stultz, who noted 21 percent of manufacturing workers will retire in the next eight years and 24 percent of manufacturing workers are 55 or older.

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