MMAC, M7 to ‘stop fishing and start farming’ with new talent initiative

Will also focus on upskilling workers, attracting talent from outside Milwaukee market

A new Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and Milwaukee 7 Economic Development Partnership initiative will focus on shifting the region’s workforce development strategy from “fishing” to “farming” talent,  MMAC president Tim Sheehy said.

MMAC and M7 announced Thursday the launch of the Talent and Industry Partnership, a new effort aimed at improving connections between the K-12 and higher education sectors and area employers, upskilling existing employees and recruiting talent from outside the market.

“Simply put, we need to stop fishing and start farming – to do everything we can to find, develop, retain and attract the talent the region needs to be prosperous,” Sheehy said. “We can collaborate to inspire the next generation of our workforce, help current employees acquire new skills, bring in members of our community who have been left on the sidelines and attract more talented workers from outside our market.”

This fall, the partnership will launch CareerX, a new program that will match region’s manufacturers with area high school teachers and students to expose them to smart manufacturing career opportunities. Also in the works is a pilot program to help employers upskill current employees.

“Talent is the No. 1 challenge facing employers across the country, and the Milwaukee region is uniquely positioned to thrive in this environment,” said Pat O’Brien, executive director of M7. “While the challenge is great, the good news is that we’re not starting from scratch. While M7 is best known for helping new businesses enter our region and existing businesses expand, we also have made significant steps in talent development since our formation in 2005. By combining our efforts with MMAC’s, we can do even more to help our employers solve their talent needs.”

The initiative traces back to an ongoing collaboration among 30 of the region’s manufacturers, led by Rockwell Automation and ManpowerGroup. Since November 2018, human resources executives from participating manufacturers have met to come up with solutions to their talent challenges.

Susan Koehn, formerly M7’s director of industry partnerships, will lead the initiative.

“Our region’s employers will always compete with one another to hire the best employees, and we don’t want to change that,” Koehn said. “But we are committed to helping employers find new ways to work together and increase the overall pool of workers that they all draw from. We also are committed to forming connections between employers, public and private workforce development programs and our region’s educational institutions. We can all do more together than any one of us can do on our own.”


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