Is There a Labor Shortage, Lack of Skills or Other Factors at Play

During a recent Public Policy Forum luncheon in Milwaukee, Froedert Health president and CEO Cathy Jacobsen talked about a shortage of medical staff and professionals at a time when the need for patient care is increasing due to the aging baby boomer population. “I’ve got nobody to do the work.  Who’s going to be working?  We are already in a critical workforce shortage today.”

In an interview with The Milwaukee Business Journal, Generac’s CEO, Aaron Jagdfeld was asked, as all of these shifts and changes are happening, how does that change your company’s workforce. His response “For us the workforce discussion is pretty interesting.  There a couple of dynamics with that.  I don’t think anybody disputes the fact that we can’t hire enough engineers – flat out.  There aren’t enough people coming out of universities with technical backgrounds.  To hire a software engineer in the city here is incredibly hard, and we have a lot of software in our products today.”

At Gilles a local custard stand they tell me they are short 12 people going into the summer season.

In Wisconsin where these three companies reside the unemployment rate is now 3.2%, in engineering and IT closer to zero. The labor participation an even better measure, as of April is 68.6%.

The Western Growers Association reports that crews are running 20% short on average. Boosting wages and benefits—many employers pay $15 an hour with 401(k) s and paid vacation—has been little help. Instead, employers are cannibalizing one another’s farms. In 2015 the country’s largest lemon grower Limoneira raised wages to $16 per hour, boosted retirement benefits by 20% and offered subsidized housing. But now vineyards in Napa are poaching workers from growers in California’s Central Valley by paying even more.

Is there a labor shortage overall or a qualified labor shortage. It’s true for decades not enough people have come out of our universities with technical degrees.   In Wisconsin there are 5,000 welder positions unfilled as well.  The labor force has relied on the H1B and other programs for people from other countries to fill the gap in many technical proficiencies.   In another twist an analysis, by accounting and consulting firm PwC, stated that anticipated capabilities of robotics and artificial intelligence could jeopardize 38% of U.S. job within 15 years.

For the short term 1) Study robotics or welding 2) Employers had better think about, raising wages for incoming and existing workers.

If you don’t the lemon growers will take your people and the robots will take over your jobs.


  1. Jim Lotz on May 23, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    Peter, please send the engineers and IT people to Wisconsin. We have hundreds of jobs going unfilled.

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