Survey: Statewide worker shortage continues

Survey: Statewide worker shortage continues
Community officials, business leaders weigh in on issue
By Joe VanDeLaarschot
Jan. 28, 2020

HARTFORD, WI — A recent survey by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce indicates finding qualified workers remains one of the largest challenges for state business and industry.

Community officials and business leaders say the same problem exists in this area.

Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Scott Henke said that’s the number one issue for area employers – “that and health care costs.”

“Just to find employees to fill vacant positions, we would literally have to take every high school graduate from Hartford over the next two years just to fill those spots,” Henke said. “It’s because of growth and also because of the decline in the birth rate. Baby boomers are retiring faster than the baby boomers’ kids are having children.”

According to the WMC survey, three-quarters of private-sector employers surveyed reported difficulties in finding employees. The semiannual survey of Wisconsin CEOs is the 10th consecutive WMC survey to report 65% of employers having difficulties finding workers.

“Workforce is the defining economic issue in Wisconsin and will be until we figure out a way to attract the workers employees need as baby boomers continue to reach retirement age,” WMC president and CEO Kurt Bauer said in a press release.

Cathy Hesprich, senior human resources partner at Quad/Graphics in Hartford, said solving the problem is a constant battle.

“I think the biggest problem that we have is that it is so easy to get jobs that we have to work very hard to attract people and then to get them to stay,” Hesprich said. “We make it very easy for people to come in and apply. Every Wednesday we have a ‘Walk in Wednesday’ where if you come in between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. you will get a tour and you will get an interview no matter what. We have found that helps because sometime people with the economy the way it is, they want to move quickly and we want to move quickly if we have someone interested. By doing the ‘Walk in Wednesdays’ we have sped up the hiring process.”

Some companies across the state and locally have offered flexible work schedules and even flexible dress codes. The survey indicated some have planned lunches and social events as well as wellness programs and flexible days off. Some even have adopted work-from-home policies.

Signicast Human Resources Director Teri Green said her company is facing the same challenge.

“We’ve all had a number of challenges, but our hiring has been strong,” Green said. “We do get applicants that come in, but the challenge is finding the right qualified candidate.

“We were able to hire over 300 employees last year and our hiring pipeline is strong. It’s really a matter of finding those people for key positions,” Green said. “We have about 50 positions now we are trying to fill. It is a lot, but it is mostly for us because there is turnover and we are growing. We’ve added business so we have an entire plant we’re trying to staff.”

Slinger School District Superintendent Daren Sievers said student readiness through the local school districts needs to reflect local job market demands.

“We know there’s a skilled labor shortage. Our technology education department works hard every day to make sure they are doing what they can to address that shortage by preparing students for the job market,” Sievers said.

Hartford Area Development Corporation Executive Director Tom Hostad said Milwaukee Tool’s announcement that the company will build a new factory in West Bend that will lead to the creation of 50 highly skilled manufacturing jobs initially could increase the area competition, causing a tighter market for skilled workers.

Brad Conrad
graphics@portagewi.com