Seminars on Economy / Jobs / Workforce Development

Opportunities for Strengthening Wisconsin’s Workforce

According to Department of Workforce Development estimates, as many as 46,000 Wisconsin jobs could go unfilled in 2022. Demographic trends, including the retirement of baby boomers, may be driving a good portion of this labor shortage, but that is only part of the story. Other factors, such as mismatches between where jobs are located and where people live, or the type of jobs available versus the skills of available workers, also play a role. In addition, many adults want to work, but face significant barriers to successful employment. The current labor market presents a unique opportunity: How can Wisconsin policymakers help increase the employability of these individuals and strengthen their families, while also meeting employers’ needs and strengthening the state’s economy?

The first seminar speaker discussed the size and characteristics of Wisconsin’s workforce, as well as other underlying factors affecting the labor market. The second and third speakers presented several evidence-based policy options to engage and support two populations with much to gain from participating in the labor market: low-income, low-skilled adults and people with criminal histories.

The Wisconsin Family Impact Seminars are an initiative of the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs, with generous financial support from the UW–Madison Chancellor’s Office and Phyllis M. Northway Fund.
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Training Today’s Youth for Tomorrow’s Jobs

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Will Wisconsin have the workers it needs for tomorrow’s jobs? Older workers are retiring, and one of six young people today lack strong connections to school or work. By 2020, nearly two-thirds of jobs are expected to require some postsecondary education. This seminar focuses on the question policymakers face: How can Wisconsin prepare today’s youth who are unlikely to get a four-year degree for the jobs needed in tomorrow’s economy?

The Family Impact Seminars view policy issues through the lens of both research and family impact. Cutting-edge research demonstrates that effective workforce training can help youth transition into a successful work and family life, while producing the skills employers need. The presenters for this seminar review what makes youth workforce training effective, which research-based programs teach occupational and employability skills, and how cost-effective apprenticeships are for training workers in the nation’s fastest-growing occupations.

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Preparing Wisconsin’s Youth for Success in the Workforce

fis31_240x240Young people have been hit harder by unemployment than any other age group in the current recession. Unemployment among 16- to 24-year-olds has doubled over the past decade, with low-income, minority teens especially hard hit. For decades, efforts have been made to reform K-12 education, promote college enrollment, and enhance work-based learning. Yet academic achievement and college graduation rates have failed to improve. Many U.S. employers still complain that today’s young adults do not have what it takes to succeed in the 21st century labor market. This seminar will present cutting-edge research on the most effective, evidence-based strategies for preparing our youth for success in the workforce. Two approaches will be featured that have some of the strongest evidence of improving life chances for youth—investments in early childhood education and Career Academies for making high school more engaging and career-relevant. Working together, youth, families, schools, employers, and policymakers can help ensure today’s generation of youth do not get left behind in the global economy.

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Positioning Wisconsin for the Jobs of the Future

fis30_240x240In July, Wisconsin’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 7.8% (Bureau of Labor Statistics). However, some workers have been hit harder than others. Nationally, compared to all workers over age 20, unemployment rates are four times higher among displaced workers (those who lost jobs because plants closed or moved, their position/shift was eliminated, or work dropped off; Center for Labor Market Studies, 2011). The percent of teens and young adults who are working is now at the lowest level since the end of the Great Depression (Harvard, 2011). However, high unemployment is not due entirely to lack of jobs, but also to the difficulty employers face in finding talent to fill vacancies. Families are key to producing the human talent that businesses require to remain competitive and innovative. This human talent is essential for efforts to attract and expand businesses in Wisconsin, so workers are prepared to step into these new jobs. What evidence-based programs will equip workers with the skills to meet current labor force needs and help businesses be more productive?

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Evidence-Based Budgeting: Making Decisions to Move Wisconsin Forward

fis29_240x240In the wake of the worst recession since the Great Depression, Wisconsin policymakers face a substantial budget shortfall. A recovery is underway, but the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (2010) predicts it will take until mid 2013 for the economy to return to pre-recession levels. For states, next year “could be the worst year of this four- or five-year downturn period,” according to Scott Pattison, Director of the National Association of State Budget Officers. What lessons can be learned from this recession to build more sustainable budgets in the future? This seminar will feature three national experts discussing how evidence can be used to inform state budget decisions. Speakers will describe how Wisconsin’s revenues and expenditures compare with other Midwest states, and present strategies for identifying and investing in evidence-based, cost-effective programs that improve outcomes for children and families.

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Workforce Development Policy: New Directions for States

fis28_240x240In the U.S., the recession is over, but employment continues to fall, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Between December 2007 and August 2009, Wisconsin lost 138,900 jobs, which is almost equal to the number of working-aged adults in Madison. According to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, the state’s unemployment rate has already doubled from a year ago, and further drops in state employment are likely before a rebound occurs. In the next year or two, 21% of leading Wisconsin CEOs plan to expand in the state, with 52% planning to expand in another state or country. What workforce strategies can attract and retain employers in Wisconsin? What job opportunities are emerging in the clean energy industry? How can Wisconsin ensure the economic future of its workforce and its families?

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Growing the State Economy: Evidence-Based Policy Options

fis27_240x240The economy may be undergoing one of the most fundamental transformations in history. According to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, Wisconsin ranks low compared to other states in new business creations and venture capital per worker. Wisconsin has seen plants close, jobs lost, and per capita personal income steadily decline. In 2006, per capita personal income in the state was 5.9% below the U.S. average—the lowest level since the late 1980s. As the economy has changed, what is the role of state policy in responding to these changes? Are there evidence-based polices that can strengthen the state economy?

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Moving Families Out of Poverty: Employment, Tax and Investment Strategies

fis09_240x240Hear the results of the last two decades of research on promising strategies for moving families out of poverty from some of the nation’s leading authorities. How successful have state welfare-to-work programs been in helping welfare recipients find jobs and in removing families from poverty? Will a single employment strategy work for all parts of the welfare population, including unsteady workers and those difficult to employ? What are the costs and benefits of investment strategies like early home visiting in increasing employment and in improving the long-term economic and social well-being of children and families? What tax strategies have states invested in to move the working poor out of poverty?

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