New survey forecasts dire labor shortage in Washington County

Washington County could face a severe labor shortage in the coming decade, according to a new retirement survey released by the county.

The 2012 Washington County Retirement and Departure Intentions Survey, which ran from the end of 2011 through mid-2012, reveals that the county could suffer 23,500 unfilled jobs by 2026 if its communities don’t take immediate action.

Conducted by Washington County chambers, economic development organiztions and education stakeholders in partnership with area employers containing more than 50 employees, the survey consulted more than 3,000 employees about their retirement and post-retirement plans.

The survey aimed to take a pulse on employees’ plans for retirement and departure as well as the reasoning behind their plans. It also aimed to obtain demographic information such as age, gender, specialty area, job function, tenure and employment status for use in analyzing retirement and departure plans.

Among the survey’s key findings:

* A total 17.5 percent of those surveyed look to retire within the next five years, 33.9 percent within the next 10 years and 50.9 percent within 15 years.

* Industries expected to see higher than average retirement rates in the next 15 years include materials/warehousing/transportation, production/operations/manufacturing, and maintenance.

* Of employees wanting to retire within five years, 14.9 percent stated they would leave the workforce completely. Another 46.7 percent reported uncertainty in continuing to work after retirement, and the remaining 38.5 percent reported plans to pursue post-retirement work in some capacity.

* More than 49 percent of employees aiming to retire in the next five years said there was nothing their employer could do to convince them to stay longer. About 37 percent said they would consider working longer in part-time positions with health benefits.

* The Washington County workforce could face a gap of more than 13,400 employees in the next 15 years. When accounting for departures of local high school graduates, the gap could reach 23,500 employees by 2026.

“One of the most shocking elements of the results is the speed with which the baby boomer generation is intending to retire,” said Christian Tscheschlok, executive director at Washington County Economic Development Corp.

The next generation of workers cannot adequately fill the gap baby boomers will leave, he said.

In addressing the forecasted labor shortage, the Economic Development Corp. will collaborate with both the state and local employers.

“Workforce is a multi-pronged effort that’s going to involve adjustments at all levels,” Tscheschlok said.

The Washington County Economic Development Corp. will partner with the Wisconsin Economic Development Association to foster a program in which a portion of employment taxes paid will be segregated into an account that employers could tap into to fund immediate training needs.

Within the next month, the economic development corporation will also hold a focus group comprised of private sector employers to determine specific tactics in overcoming the looming shortage.

“Our next step is to pull together key members of the Washington County business community, their top leadership, and work with them on establishing…steps that we are going to deploy that are customized to Washington County as a solution,” Tscheschlok said.

Survey results were shared today at a meeting held by the West Bend Noon Rotary.

The report is accessible online at http://www.morainepark.edu/services/business-and-industry/partners.

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