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Are we facing a Quantity Gap?

We hear a lot about the skills gap, but what if we’re really facing more of what the Wisconsin Technology Council is calling a quantity gap?

Tom Still, president of the council, wrote in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in October there aren’t enough young workers to take the place of baby boomers who are retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day.

Both Haribo – the gummi bear giant – and FoxConn – maker of LCD screens – are coming to southeast Wisconsin in the very near future, and while the estimated number of workers they’re both going to need is vastly different – hundreds compared to thousands – the need for technically advanced workers is very real.

Company officials from Haribo recently expressed their concerns to Gov. Scott Walker about finding the 400 workers they’ll need for their factory, according to a story at The governor correctly reassured the company they’ll be able to staff accordingly, but what about when FoxConn starts hiring, which, by some news accounts, could be as early as next year.

Last month, I wrote about how important soft skills are in landing a job and moving up the career ladder, and there have been other stories on Racine County Eye about how the lack of a high school diploma or GED as well as decreased access to public transportation could potentially hold back thousands of local workers from filling the positions coming to the area.

There are programs in place to start addressing the diploma issue, and officials with the city department of transportation are exploring solutions as well.

As the Stills article at points out, we have a number of military veterans who will need jobs and can be trained for the high-tech manufacturing positions at FoxConn and other companies in the area. There are 1,600 employees at companies across the country in positions considered manufacturing.

We will need thousands more if the FoxConn factory comes to life, and it’s going to take public-private partnerships across the region – and with the state, if necessary – to make sure as many of our neighbors as possible are ready, willing and able to fill those positions.