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UWSP conference brings college talent, employers, government leaders together for economic development


STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAU) -- The University of Wisconsin Stevens Point is looking for ways to better use their resources to help communities attract and retain talent for economic development.

Special Assistant to the Chancellor Dave Eckmann says the two-day conference that ended yesterday brought the school’s opportunities to businesses, government leaders in an effort to do a better job of working together for growth.  “This was a way to bring together all of the stakeholders throughout the region and show them, and allow them to see what is going on in the university, and what they can access.”

Eckmann says high demand worldwide for highly skilled labor makes it difficult to keep locally-trained talent in Wisconsin.  “For central Wisconsin, we have to work hard, real hard, because the global economy is pulling talent away, not only from the region but from the state, and if we as a state don’t collectively work really hard to keep our talent and attract talent, we’re going to be at a competitive disadvantage.”

Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson spoke to the group Tuesday, and emphasised the Fast Forward program. He says the state must continue to work with partners to fill the needs of workers and employers.  “Well, we’re here to talk about how we continue to align talent and workforce development with economic development in Wisconsin (with) the job creators, the people that are looking to hire, skilled workers in the role that the education, the UW two and four year plays in making sure that we can continue to develop a talented workforce for our employers in Wisconsin to continue to drive prosperity and opportunity.”

The Fast Forward program helps fund initiatives including dual enrollment, where high school students graduate with some higher education credits in hand, or enough skills to go directly to the workforce. Newson says more of the technical school success in this area can be done at the UW level.  “The UW’s do a fantastic job here in Wisconsin of developing talent and training folks, but we want to make sure we provide that connection, make sure we work with employers to make sure that people who graduate with four-year degrees in high-demand areas, we can provide those linkages over to the employers.”

Newson says the skills gap is still big, and employers are having trouble finding the right, well trained workers. He says there are also many advanced degree holders that are working outside of their fields, and they need to help bring those workers into their chosen fields.  “We’re looking at a list of strategies and tactics to recommend to the Governor and the Legislature for further consideration on additional things and additional steps that we can do to continue to make sure that we retain those individuals that come to our campuses stay in Wisconsin, take the Wisconsin jobs, and also create jobs and other opportunities here.”

(Click on the names to hear our interviews with Reggie Newson and Dave Eckmann.)