Let's have an honest talk about this week's jobs news
I was interviewed by a news reporter yesterday who didn't want to stay for the reason I was at Arrowhead High School. The school has partnered with local business leaders who are taking direct responsibility for growing their own workforce and together, they have built a remarkable Science, Technology, Engineering and Math wing with accompanying curriculum. It's frankly impressive. But the journalist didn't want to talk about that. She wanted an interview about the announcements of SC Johnson, Oscar Meyer and Joy Global that they were either moving jobs or eliminating them altogether.
This is where things get interesting. Each of these cases represents an undeniable economic trend we need to help people understand.
In the case of SC Johnson, longtime Wisconsin maker of household products like Windex, they are moving marketing jobs to Chicago because that city represents a broader creative talent pool. The Governor and I talk nearly nonstop about our unending need for more talent to choose fields that exist and thrive in Wisconsin. We regularly have about 100,000 open jobs on our free www.jobcenterofwisconsin.com job search site, but employers still lament not being able to find people with the right skill sets to fill their existing jobs. We know we have limited time to get people to choose these fields, get them training and into these open jobs before employers decide to move the positions altogether. This is an all-hands-on-deck challenge for Wisconsin. We must help our young people, displaced workers, those searching for their next careers and even our ex-offenders understand that there are open jobs and booming industries in our state with family-sustaining wages and we must point them in those directions to realize the longevity and prosperity that come with a career in a growing industry.
Oscar Meyer's move to shut down operations in Madison represents another economic trend: people are eating less processed meat. There are active campaigns to encourage Americans to stop eating meat and studies say meat consumption is declining in the US. Couple that with last week's declaration that processed meat causes cancer and you have a consumer trend that has dealt a huge blow to Oscar Meyer. No amount of Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation dollars could convince America to ignore the reports and reverse a course of declining demand to save this company's Madison area facility overnight. WEDC did try to save our Wisconsin jobs, but many of those didn't meet the standard of $14/hour and up positions we fight hard for. The result is, our Department of Workforce Development will do everything in its power to give these workers the opportunities and help they need to get into the best-fitting of those 100,000 open jobs.
Finally, Joy Global. This company produces mega mining machinery and with a global downturn in the mining industry, once again, there is simply less demand and the company is consolidating. Just as Quad Graphics is consolidating and other states' Quad workers might lose their jobs while the company continues to hire in Wisconsin, the forces of a free market economy have shrunk some industries and workforce demands and grown others. That's how we can have multiple announcements of big companies shrinking workforce at the same time we have 100,000 open jobs.
You never know how a reporter's story will turn out. I was a reporter and I know how soundbites can be edited and interviews can be cut to fit a story. I also know that it's unethical to show bias. I give credit to this reporter because by the time her story aired, she had fit the whole thing in: the fact that Wisconsin may have seen some big layoff announcements as a reslut of large economic trends, but we also have a huge number of open jobs. And she didn't even need my soundbites to tell the story...now, if we only could have gotten the cool expansion for STEM learning at Arrowhead High School in there...