It’s all about the workers.
That was the main message during the annual New North Summit, which was held in early December at the KI Convention Center in Green Bay. More than 650 people attended the event, which focused on economic growth in the region along with initiatives to address a problem facing nearly every industry — a lack of workers.
“We listened to what the needs are, and we are committed to diversity and inclusion, new ways to address talent and business development, new initiatives to scale entrepreneurs and innovation, and increased marketing efforts to showcase what our 18-county region has to offer,” said New North Inc. Executive Director Barb LaMue, who took over the organization’s leadership following Jerry Murphy’s retirement.
The workforce shortage is not going away anytime soon, said Amber Laurent, market principal for Manpower. Sharing the results of the ManpowerGroup Talent Assessment, she said low birth rates will continue to make it a challenge to find workers with the right skills.
“We need to be creative in attracting new people to our open jobs while also working with the talent we already have,” Laurent said.
She went on to share the four categories that employers can look at to fill their open positions: build, buy, borrow and bridge.
“Employers need to build their workforces by partnering with local schools to help get students interested in possible careers, offer apprenticeship programs or come up with something unique, such as an intensive program to retrain veterans for open positions,” Laurent said. “Employers also need to not only pay more but also look at offering different benefits, such as telecommuting, to their employees. In manufacturing, it might be offering job sharing options. Benefits can be just as important as the paycheck.”
Working with an agency to hire part-time workers or contractors or talking with retiring employees about staying on in a job is a way a company can “borrow” workers, she said.
“Bridging, I think, is a vital way to fill your workforce needs. With this, you teach your employees the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow,” Laurent said. “In-house training programs are essential.”
The New North’s Business Intelligence Committee is working with David Beurle, CEO of Future iQ, on developing ways to meet the talent demands of area employers. As baby boomers leave the workforce, it will create a huge disruption that will transform businesses and their cultures, he said.
Based on the feedback from employers and Beurle, New North is creating a talent hub platform that will allow the region to attract, recruit and retain employees, said John Kreul, vice president of supply chain for Amcor Flexibles North America and co-chair of the Business Intelligence Committee.
“It will be a vibrant talent development system that will engage not only current workers but also students in sharing the state-approved (career) pathways,” he said.
During the afternoon, the summit featured two breakout sessions — one focused on the NEW Manufacturing Alliance and a HATCH pitch contest.
The NEWMA event included a full membership meeting and the announcement of the appointment of Mark Lasky, CEO of Sadoff Iron & Metal, as chairman of the organization’s board.
NEWMA also shared insights from its recently released 10th annual Manufacturing Vitality Index. It showed overall optimism tempered mostly by difficulty finding needed talent. Key findings included:
• 98 percent described their financial health as either healthy or quite healthy.
• 61 percent expected to increase sales in 2020.
• 32 percent plan expansion in 2020, while 68 plan to invest in modernization efforts.
• 75 percent said they struggle to find talent.
• 46 percent anticipate hiring new personnel in the first quarter of 2020.
In the HATCH Pitch event, eight entrepreneurs selected from four regional events vied for a top prize of $5,000 and a second-place prize of $3,000 for their ideas. Luke Haen was the first-place winner for his BAKKAB Safe Backing system, while Andrew Schmitz took second place for his Proceed app.
New co-chair named: Tim Schneider, president and founder of Investors Community Bank in Manitowoc, is replacing Bill Bohn of Associated Bank as co-chair of the New North board of directors. Vicki Updike of New Sage Strategies will continue in her role as co-chair.
Workplace award: Integrity Insurance of Appleton received the Workplace Excellence Award, which is presented by Right Management. Judges called out the company’s commitment to innovation and empowering employees to develop their own solutions.
“Our people fuel our innovation,” said Integrity President Jill Wagner Kelly. “I definitely believe that as we build people, they will build the company.”