Study identifies solutions to area skill gaps - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Study identifies solutions to area skill gaps

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Eau Claire (WQOW) -  There may be new solutions to a workforce dilemma: finding skilled people to fill job openings.

It's been a big concern for a few years.  So big, many groups came together to find solutions.  Businesses, schools, local government, workforce agencies and non-profits spent the past 14 months examining how to narrow the skills gap.  Today, they released the results of their study. 

Finding the right worker to fill an opening has been no easy task.  We started looking into the skills gap two years ago.  That's when EDI in Chippewa Falls told us it was having such a tough time filling jobs with local candidates, it went to Detroit to hire five workers.  That kind of story inspired a 14 month local study.  Several recommendations came out of the study Friday. For example, get the right job market information so students and employers know what the area needs.

"We don't really have it down to a local level, where we need it, to make these kinds of decisions. Organizations need to know what jobs are growing right here and when do they need them," Scott Hodek, a regional Economist says.

Jobs like engineering.  Careerbuilder.com currently has 12 jobs listed in Eau Claire but here's the problem.  UW-Eau Claire does not offer an engineering degree.  Another recommendation is to focus on students facing economic challenges.

"CVTC has 400 students every year that don't graduate. We want to make sure those students, as well as adults, are given financial assistance for the type of things that will allow them to conclude their education," says Joan Coffman, United Way Chair.

Nearly three quarters of area businesses have fewer than 20 employees, which means they may not have the resources to train employees. They depend on workers to come with the necessary skills, which leads into another study recommendation: develop a strategy to recruit skilled workers to the area.  All of these ideas are designed to match people with careers that are a good fit.

"That's what we'll be doing over the next year: really trying to discern how we can more effectively reach these people, give them the tools they need and make them feel confident as they approach the workforce," Coffman says.

Committees are being formed to address the study recommendations.  There are things businesses can do right now to address the skills gap. One example is list the education and skill requirements for each position on their website. They can then provide links to schools that offer those programs.

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