by Bill Johnson, Executive Director, Urban Economic Development Association of Wisconsin, Inc. (UEDA)
Two words have become prevalent in southeastern Wisconsin lately – skills gap. We are seeing it reported in the news, discussed by educational institutions and made the priority of local employers. We’ve also seen numerous reports, including by Tim Sullivan, Competitive Wisconsin, Inc. and The Public Policy Forum. These reports, studies and initiatives have provided in-depth analysis of the challenges facing the statewide workforce system. Now, we must develop real, tangible and actionable solutions to implement on the ground to address the problem we all know exists.
Individually, we have done a great job of identifying the need for a solution. I believe that for real change to occur and the skills gap to be addressed, the solution needs to be the result of leaders coming together and collectively creating an environment that fosters an open exchange of ideas. Established employers, entrepreneurs, small business owners and education and training representatives all have a role in addressing the complex issue of maximizing the inherent skills of jobseekers at all levels.
As opposed to recommending a “cure” for what ails our workforce development system, we need to engage in a dialogue that will focus on developing strategies that will lead to increased collaboration between and among the various workforce development partners that are already doing great things to address the skills gap. We must go beyond finger pointing and casting of blame and instead focus our energy on action steps that will forge more creative approaches that will drive hiring, support our struggling entrepreneurs and make the region more business friendly.
Previous Urban Economic Development Association (UEDA) summits were focused on action. This year’s 11th Annual Summit, addressing the skills gap, will be no different. On November 8th, key stakeholders will come together with members of the community to discuss actions that are already underway and having an impact, brainstorm new strategies for further progress and come together on the most efficient way to maximize resources in our workforce system. Urban issues expert Carol Coletta, an accomplished city visionary and sought after national speaker, will help give a national perspective to our discussion, offering insights about Milwaukee and trends in other cities like ours.
We are issuing a call to action for those who want to be a part of the solution to our workforce challenges. To join us, visit,www.uedawi.org or call (414)562-9904.