Help Wanted

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:39 pm

Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development projects that the fields that will produce the most new jobs in the state over the next several years are: business and financial operations, computer and mathematical operations, community and social services, legal services, health care and protective services.

Other fields will provide job opportunities, but mostly to replace people who have left existing positions, rather than providing opportunities for newly created positions, the agency says.

Despite the number of well-publicized downsizing and outsourcing moves by manufacturers in Wisconsin, many of the state’s manufacturers are struggling to find qualified people to fill job openings. Those are career opportunities that many state residents seem to be unaware of, because so many parents send their children off to college to obtain four-year degrees, rather than pursuing skilled trades.

Many of those students might be better off going to a technical college instead.

“Skilled trades, skilled trades, skilled trades,” said Carol Schneider, chief executive officer of Seek Inc., a Grafton-based staffing firm. “Accounting, internal auditors, anything on the manufacturing side, we’re desperate. I attribute (the shortage in the skilled labor workforce) to everybody in American sending their kids to college. Nobody went to trade schools in the last several years.”

 “There is a huge demand for technical graduates,” said Cherie Campion, president of Mequon-based Engstrom Inc. staffing services. “If you have a degree in the technical field, you won’t have a hard time finding a job. That’s what everyone’s screaming for and what you’re trying to recruit for.”

Baby boomers in the skilled trades are retiring, leaving a gaping hole in Wisconsin’s workforce.

“There’s a lot of opportunity out there (in manufacturing), but right now it’s for experienced people,” Campion said. “It’s hard to place someone if they don’t have a good work ethic and work background if they don’t have experience.”

“Seek has job-seekers with four-year degrees who come in daily, but many of these graduates can’t do anything,” Schneider said. “A lot of people like working with their hands. That’s one of the reasons you’ve seen a tremendous increase in small businesses. They go do something on their own when they can’t find a job. We just need to encourage people who don’t want to go and spend four years with their nose in the book to go and find a trade. Skilled trades pay a lot more.”

The Department of Workforce Development confirms that manufacturers in the state need more qualified workers and that there is a misconception about the level of education people need to have successful careers.

“Right now, I hear more about job shortages in manufacturing than any other industry,” said state labor economist Eric Grosso. “A few years ago, it was more health care. It’s not that that has changed, but manufacturing is becoming a little bit louder.

“We need to make sure people know their options,” Grosso said. “It’s not just the four-year degree and further that guarantee high-paying jobs. No educational attainment will ever guaranty a wage.”

The most difficult placements for Brookfield-based recruiting firm Elite Human Capital Group have been for accounting jobs, said Joel Buffington, the company’s vice president. It can be difficult to find the right fit for accounting and finance positions, he said.

“What makes the difference in these fields are intangibles,” Buffington said. Those intangibles include an outgoing, positive personality and the ability to follow through with tasks.

In addition, workers with technological and communication skills are in demand.

“People that can be a liaison between accounting and financing and information technology are in high demand,” Buffington said. “The people who can relate to the non-technical end user are in demand.”

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