Workforce Report Highlights Needing to Attract Talent

The Chamber’s Vicki Markussen attended the Wisconsin Manufacturer & Commerce Foundation’s event held, graciously at Kwik Trip, this past Friday. 

The event had two purposes:

  1. to unveil what Wisconsin needs to keep our workforce competitive and
  2. to discuss Governor Ever’s budget (view their resulting legislative agenda here >>).

The Good News

The findings echo what our Chamber and others have been saying:

We do not have enough bodies to fill our open positions. 

At least that pain is felt statewide and, not surprisingly, nationwide.

 The Mediocre News

 There is a very obvious call to action which is to look at automation to reduce the need of human bodies.

If you need human bodies, the only way to grow is by attracting people from other companies or getting them right of out school. Then, by all means, keep them.

 The call to action are the same things our Chamber, as reinforced by the 7 Rivers WISE Plan (link provided) plan:


  1. Attract and retain talent 
  2. Upskill existing workers
  3. Improve career pathways
  4. Promote apprenticeships, young apprenticeships, internships and other work-based learning
  5. Promote career awareness
  6. Reach disconnected groups

 The Bad News

If you are looking for entry-level, low-skilled individuals, you’ll have to find disaster areas and attract those displaced to Wisconsin – ex. Puerto Rico after the hurricane. 


Employers saying they can't find employees with the right skills


Employers saying "soft skills" are hard to find (realiability, teamwork and communication)

What our Chamber has been saying is now echoed by the 7 Rivers Alliance’s WISE Plan and the WMC Foundation’s Report. 

These are the best practices to find employees. Those not using these tools will not be as successful.

Companies not investing in attracting and retaining their talent, those not working with K-12 and higher ed, and those not forming relationships now through internships and apprenticeships will struggle.

Vicki Markussen

Executive Director, La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce

What Would Help

The report includes some recommendations to address the workforce problems:

  • Increase state funding for talent attraction and retention initiatives to make Wisconsin the unquestioned national leader in securing the state’s future workforce.
  • Craft incentive programs to attract various types of individuals: high-skill, middle-skill, and entry-level workers. Use Department of Workforce Development data to fine-tune the people and skills to be targeted.
  • Continue to emphasize military veterans as a key target for talent attraction efforts.
  • Increase coordination of efforts between employers and the public sector, and between local, regional, and state agencies, with goals of consistent messaging and reduced duplication of effort.

Other Key Take-aways

  • Our national economy has had 101 straight months of job growth
  • Wisconsin is slightly below the national average for job growth
  • La Crosse County’s job growth is below that — i.e. below the state’s average
  • Declining in jobs: professional services and government
  • Our state’s manufacturing jobs are down but production is up 
  • Population Growth:
    WI: -0.4%
    MN: 1.4%
    SC: 9.5%
    TN: 6.1%
  • La Crosse is growing more than the state average. It’s surrounding counties (our labor shed) are growing as well. Compared to Wausau, that  is growing but its surrounding counties are not. 
  • Talent Attraction Priorities:
    1) Safety
    2) Schools
    3) Housing – Large cities are losing population due to too high of housing costs
    4) Healthcare
    5) Broadband
    6) Accompanying Partner Jobs