News & Events

Talent Attraction is Key to the Future of Western Wisconsin « Back to Search Results

The economy in western Wisconsin is thriving and businesses in the area are continuing to experience growth. That's the good news. The challenge is that with growth comes a need to hire local, talented workers to fill new positions – something many local businesses have been struggling to do. During meetings with businesses owners and managers, a recurring theme was that businesses needed help with talent attraction and employee recruitment. Regardless of the business type, sector or size, this was a common complaint told to Momentum West staff and board members. “When you hear something over and over again, you know you have a problem. We decided to conduct more research and identify a solution”, said James Hanke, Momentum West Talent Attraction Committee Chair.

To address this issue, Momentum West wrote two grants and received support from the Otto Bremer Foundation and the WEDC. These grants allowed for the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) to be retained to complete a thorough analysis and study of the critical challenges facing the region. They interviewed over 100 businesses, conducted a demographic analysis, and looked at trends. The CREC came to the conclusion that Western Wisconsin faces the critical challenge of needing to fill the workforce gap being left by retiring baby boomers - a gap that is not ready to be filled by the existing labor pool. To combat this, they called for two major undertakings.

#1 Talent attraction

Attracting new talent to the area requires understanding our many regional assets and marketing them to those who would consider locating in Western Wisconsin for employment opportunities.

#2 Upskilling and improving the existing workforce

By identifying unskilled or underemployed workers, our various workforce development programs can seek to educate, train and prepare them for career advancement and additional opportunities.

A Plan in Action

Since the study was completed nine months ago, key partnerships have been established and we are beginning to see success. With six higher education institutions located in Western Wisconsin, we have an incredible asset that we have been able to leverage to help recruit students who want to stay in the area. By connecting students with key opportunities and regional employers, it makes it possible for them to receive job offers upon graduation and to stay in the area. The universities have also been proactive in helping to recruit alumni for specific positions open within local companies. For example, Momentum West recently participated in a UW alumni event held at the St. Paul Saints game. Several local businesses participated in this opportunity to recruit alumni who have left the area but may be interested in moving back. They were able to meet alumni, talk about the new and exciting projects, and the positions they need to fill. This is an incredibly personal way to recruit people for regional businesses and likely to be successful, given that alumni are already familiar with the area.

Upskilling Workers

There are other initiatives in place to increase the skillset of our regional workforce so they can meet new demands and be ready to use the technology of the future. These workforce development initiatives are focused on upskilling workers and helping those who are currently underemployed.

Reaching Students Early

Momentum West is also focusing on the next generation of workers. In the state of Wisconsin, students in middle school and high school are required to create a future employment plan. The Career Cruising program helps them to identify careers that are of interest, the education that is required to get there, and what employers are looking for. Momentum West is working on the employer side of this program by helping students to understand what jobs are available regionally and what they need to learn in school to be a good candidate for them. By interfacing with students when they are young, doors of opportunity are opened that can help them to enter a rewarding career in Western Wisconsin.

Creativity Required

It takes creativity to address this challenge head-on but Momentum West is at the forefront of doing so. The workforce attraction initiative is incredibly valuable and necessary because what impacts one area of our economy impacts us all. If a major employer cannot attract talent, it will be difficult for them to remain or grow here, negatively impacting our regional economy.

Regional businesses should support this initiative because it is in the self-interest of businesses in our region to have a workforce who is skilled, ready to work and interested in staying in the area. Businesses can help with this effort by becoming investors in Momentum West, volunteering, having management serve as mentors and creating various internship opportunities. This is an all hands-on deck initiative that is going to directly impact the future of Western Wisconsin. Momentum West is leading the charge, but the entire community is required to participate for the best possible results and to secure our future economic growth.