The mantra of economic trends gurus lately has been “Mind the gap!”
Say it with a British accent, but they’re not talking about the dangerous space between a train and the platform on the London Underground. Rather, they’re talking about the gap that exists between workers and the skills required by the millions of vacant jobs in this country – and the world – today.
Too many untrained workers are left to languish as the doors slam shut on opportunities. Employers, productivity and local economies suffer when not enough skilled workers can perform the jobs that need to be done.
This mismatch will be a major drag on the economy without collaborative efforts between business, education and community leaders – the kind of efforts going on in the New North region, according to Ed Gordon, author of “Future Jobs – Solving the Employment and Skills Crisis.”
“Seventy million baby boomers are retiring over this decade and two-thirds of the jobs we need to fill will be vacated by them,” Gordon said in an interview in advance of his keynote at the 2013 New North Summit in Green Bay.
Gordon says one answer to curbing the skills gap is the creation of what he calls Regional Talent Innovation Networks – RETAINs for short – and one of them is New North, Inc. He devotes two pages of his new book to the work being done in our region toward bridging the skills gap, including efforts by the NEW Manufacturing Alliance and the North Coast Marine Manufacturing Alliance.
The annual New North Report to the Community, produced by Insight Publications LLC and mailed with the December issue of Insight, is a testament to the work that’s been done by the many committees and hundreds of volunteers rolling their sleeves up in the name of a dynamic economic future for Northeast Wisconsin. In it you’ll find plenty of evidence that business, education, government and communities are working together to develop training, awareness of opportunities and multiple pipelines between our current and future workforce and the jobs we’ll need to fill.
I encourage you to check out the article on the New North Business Locator Guide, in particular. This 22-page booklet, the product of in-depth research and already an award-winning piece, puts the facts behind the reasons Northeast Wisconsin is a great place to do business. Notably, it offers proof behind the old-fashioned notion that people in Northeast Wisconsin possess a strong “work ethic.” Guess what? It’s true – and we now have the metrics to prove it.
When the Fox Cities Regional Partnership hosted a panel of national and international site selection experts in Appleton in October, it was pretty clear that the people with the power to decide where to recommend companies locate their businesses wanted facts. In “Bringing it home” on page 10 of this month’s Insight, they urged us to “show the data” and prove what sets our region apart.
“A lot of communities out there across the USA say they have the best work ethic and the most productive workforce and best skills. … So prove it,” said site selector Bob Hess of Newmark Knight Grubb Frank.
Fortunately, he and his peers were handed the New North Business Locator Guide. (And if you have a connection with potential business prospects from outside the state or beyond, be sure to mail a copy to them, or send them a link to the digital version at www.thenewnorth.com).
One more important take-away from the site selectors’ visit: We in Northeast Wisconsin need to get ourselves on a national map. “New North” and “Fox Cities” may be names that resonate within our region, but let’s face it – you simply can’t locate them with a GPS. This has been said many times by many speakers at regional events this year; obviously, how we go about doing this will be a true exercise in collaboration.
In the meantime, let’s continue to champion the work that’s being done to move our regional economy forward.