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Skills gap contributes to unemployment

Nov. 19, 2012

The biggest step toward self-reliance follows job creation. In 2002, Waukesha County's unemployment rate hovered in the range of 3.3 percent. As of August 2012, that rate sat at 6.3 percent. Just a couple years ago, the county's unemployment rate was as high as 8.7 percent, according to Francisco Sanchez, president of the Workforce Development Board that oversees Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties.

Sanchez said there are a large number of open positions, particularly in manufacturing, that go unfilled because of the growing skills gap facing the state and the nation.

"Some of the people that are unemployed, they don't have the right skill sets to fill the jobs that are open," he said. "So we are training and training and training, but obviously there is a limitation on how many people we are able to train."

The greatest shortages exist in engineering and skilled trades such as machining and tool-and-die makers. The need for nurses and other healthcare professionals is growing as well.

Said Sanchez, "We work with businesses. They help us in identifying the types of skills that they are in need of, so the people that we subsidize to go into training, we pay for the training, those individuals are going to be getting a skill set that businesses are looking for. But we are only one piece of the puzzle. There is also the technical college and the general public."

Ironically, he said, the nation is likely to face a labor shortage in the coming years as baby boomers retire from the workforce.\

by the numbers

In 2002, Waukesha County's unemployment rate hovered in the range of 3.3% . As of August, that rate sat at 6.3% .

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