Many Wisconsin workers, and prospective workers, face a skills gap. There are other challenges facing the state's workforce, of course, including a lack of jobs in some areas. But Mark Kesnick with the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board says the skills gap is real. “Businesses . . . want someone who's going to show up and . . . who can do the job,” Kesnick said Monday during a Capitol hearing by the Special Committee on Building Wisconsin's Workforce. Kesnick's comments reflect what observers says is a serious roadblock for many of the state's low skill workers: deficits in so-called “soft skills” which are basic to getting and keeping a job. Carol Wagonson with Workforce Connections in La Crosse says employers in western Wisconsin are “looking for people who are going to show up everyday, who can do basic math.”
Department of Workforce Development Secretary Roberta Gassman says poverty compounds the skills deficit problem. “If you have no advanced education beyond high school, and if you have grown up low-income . . . you will carry challenges that will make it very difficult for the workforce system to intervene, and become that skilled worker,” Gassman told the committee.