Workforce development discussion held in Stevens Point

By Michael Leischner, WSAU

STEVENS POINT, WI (WSAU) -- Dozens of employers and stakeholders met at Mid-State Technical College in Stevens Point to speak with State Representative Katrina Shankland and Department of Workforce Development Secretary-Designee Caleb Frostman about the challenges of retaining and recruiting employees in the region.

"It was a diverse set of stakeholders," said Frostman. "We covered labor issues, workforce shortage, training programs, and how the state can be helpful going forward."

He says the state is particularly aware of what officials have called a "Silver tsunami" of baby boomers that are reaching retirement age, saying every time someone retires another worker needs to take their place.

"It almost always comes up in these roundtables. Things like immigration and how we can get more bodies here to fill these jobs. Some companies are being creative as to where they are looking [both] within the US and outside the US. But acknowledging that demographic shift, that silver tsunami, gives a real sense of urgency to fill some of those positions."

He's encouraged by the region's commitment to apprenticeships and other training programs.

Shankland says she believes that the region can help itself simply by promoting itself better. "We have so many institutions that are 'best-kept secrets,' world-class chefs locally, our lakes, rivers, and streams, we are really lucky to have so many assets and resources here in Central Wisconsin.

"We just need to do a better job of talking about the many industries, our diverse economy, and the incredible people that we have here as well as our outdoor and natural resources," she said.

Shankland said one of the big talking points in the group was community engagement. Most employers have observed that employees are more likely to stay if they feel engaged in the community or see an effort to develop assets and resources.

Frostman says he's held similar discussions in other areas such as Racine and Door County since being appointed by Governor Tony Evers.