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MADISON — Wisconsin’s leading business advocate is calling on Gov. Tony Evers to launch a talent attraction campaign to address Wisconsin’s worker shortage crisis.

Wisconsin Manufactures & Commerce and a coalition of business groups last week sent Evers a letter to use $3 million in funds from the state budget and to tap into the millions of dollars at his disposal through the American Recovery Plan Act to establish and promote the initiative.

WMC recommends the talent attraction campaign be modeled after the effort launched in 2018 by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). That campaign helped tell Wisconsin’s story to the rest of the nation, that the Badger State is a great place to grow, learn and thrive.

“Employers in Wisconsin have severe worker shortages and an inability to fill key positions,” WMC’s letter states.

The organization’s most recent Wisconsin Employer Survey conducted in June found the biggest challenge facing Wisconsin employers is the workforce shortage, with 86 percent of employers indicating that they are struggling to hire workers. And 72 percent of these employers responded that the workforce shortage is the top public policy issue facing Wisconsin.

“These employers understand that individual talent recruitment programs can be difficult and have little impact, but partnerships with regional and statewide initiatives can bring the next generation of talent to their businesses,” the letter asserts.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, “more than a year and a half into the pandemic, the U.S. is still missing around 4.3 million workers.”

“That’s how much bigger the labor force would be if the participation rate—the share of the population 16 or older either working or looking for work—returned to its February 2020 level of 63.3%. In September, it stood at 61.6%.”

It’s the largest participation rate decline since World War II.

“Our problem is not an economy that doesn’t want to get started—it’s already started,” Ron Hetrick, an economist at labor analytics firm Emsi Burning Glass, told the Journal. “It just doesn’t have people to make the engine run. We don’t know how to reignite this thing right now.”

WMC says a talent attraction campaign would be a long-term solution to addressing the shortage. The group warns of broader economic problems ahead.

“If not addressed, the workforce shortage will continue to create supply chain disruptions and cause permanent damage to thousands of Wisconsin businesses and the economy,” WMC says.

Read the letter to the governor  here. 

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