Article was written by Amy Greil, Community Development Extension Educator.
Originally published in The Kenosha News.
Southeastern Wisconsin, from an economic development perspective, is an engine to Wisconsin.
There are nearly 350,000 people in Kenosha and Racine counties, with the population projected to grow between 30 percent to as much as 60 percent by the year 2050, according to the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission’s 2010 Comprehensive Plans.
This region’s population will not only grow in number but also grow increasingly diverse demographically as the white, non-Hispanic population drops off from over 70 percent of the current population in 2017 to just over 55 percent in 2050. This also reflects a growing trend of individuals speaking English as a second language.
The report states that in Racine County alone, there will be 24 percent more job openings in 2021 than there have been in 2019.
Many of these individuals want to earn more, are highly motivated and employable. Yes, many have formidable barriers to employment (transportation, affordable childcare, health concerns), but the onus of economically viable companies does not rest solely on job seekers.
In what companies are people put as front-of-mind as the product?
I found answers to some of those questions recently when I attended the Southeastern Wisconsin (post-prison) Reentry Employer Expo, a networking event seeking to pair agencies and employers for the win-win.
Those that attended were extremely engaged and rewarded for their time investment. Conversations about shoring up new pools of talent continue with those few.
But why so few? Either employer did not know about it/was unavailable (very possible), the stigma of hiring felons scared them away/perceived loss of credibility, or — perhaps it is an even simpler explanation: It is more convenient to bemoan workforce shortages than it is to get outside of comfort zones and explore uncharted solutions.