Milwaukee needs a high-tech upgrade

I wrote the following article because I spent a year searching for a job in Milwaukee without any luck.  I was torn between leaving the city I love, my family and friends to pursue my career. I choose to move away and pursue my career.

This was a very difficult decision. I am hoping regional leaders can begin to understand what is needed to bring metro Milwaukee up to speed.

Wisconsin you’re a winner. With the Packers, Brewers and Badgers how can you not feel like a champ? However, outside the stadiums we are not giving a 110 percent. And metro Milwaukee has a particular responsibility to succeed as the economic engine and primary cultural center of Wisconsin.  

When comparing metro Milwaukee’s high-tech prowess to 60 leading U.S. metropolitan areas, the TechAmerica Foundation has shown Metro Milwaukee to be performing like the Packers of the 1980s — hard times indeed. 

High-tech employment comprises scientists, engineers and technicians — all well-paying professions that help indicate a metro’s overall performance. TechAmerica, using Bureau of Labor Statistics, has found metro Milwaukee lagging near the bottom of key indicators:
· 36th in high-tech employment.
· 42nd in high-tech job growth.
· 44th in high-tech employment concentration
· 41st in high-tech average wage.

High-tech employment is already lagging and worse, we lost high-tech jobs at a faster rate compared to many other metros between 2007 and 2009. Ironically, we have excellent regional educational institutions and resources that prepare the next generation of high-tech employees. But we need to establish a two-handshake system for our students, one with a dean and one with a boss.

There are plenty of open jobs in Metro Milwaukee. However, the right skills are necessary to fill these evermore technically specific jobs. Therein lies a problem, we have people, job openings, educational resources, workforce development programs, hardworking civic leaders and transportation programs, yet we are not performing well.

Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. We need to change our approach — this may be particularly difficult given stubbornness is a Wisconsin tradition. A single workforce development agency for southeastern Wisconsin, strengthening the relationships between regional educators and business operators, may be one approach to effectively use limited resources to better match people with jobs.

We can better connect people and jobs but reliable and reasonable methods of travel are a precursor for success. Regional transportation means more than automobiles. It means external and internal movements, freight, ships, air, rail, cars, trucks, buses, bikes and people power. Our transport system is a complex integrated web of many modes and all must be top performers on a national and increasingly global scale to attract and retain business and industries.

Connecting people, educators, trainers and employers through regional personal and transportation networks may not be enough. Perhaps, in our Midwestern neck of the woods, the world may seem less capricious. Yet the winner and losers of the 21st century are being decided right now.

Connecting to Chicagoland is metro Milwaukee’s competitive advantage in the global economy. Globally, Milwaukee must become an assumed element of the Chicagoland market. Metro Milwaukee can roll out the red carpet for global investment by linking to Chicago via high-speed rail. Visit Chicago but stay in Milwaukee should be our 21st century ethos.

And why not, we have more fun up here, we have better food and da Bears still suck. So, what’s keeping metro Milwaukee from its rightful place in the winner’s circle?

Jason Biernat is a fifth-generation Milwaukeean, proud Wisconsinite, Marquette University Engineering graduate in 2008 and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Urban Planning Graduate in 2010. Not finding any employment opportunities in Milwaukee, he now lives and works in Baltimore, Md.

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