Daily Bread for 5.15.23: Wisconsin Needs More Young People (But They Have to Want Wisconsin)

Good morning.

Monday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of 70. Sunrise is 5:31 AM and sunset 8:11 PM for 14h 39m 59s of daytime. The moon is a waning crescent with 17.8% of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Alcohol Licensing Committee meets at 6 PM, and the Library Board meets at 6:30 PM

On this day in 1911, in Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States, the United States Supreme Court declares Standard Oil to be an “unreasonable” monopoly under the Sherman Antitrust Act and orders the company to be broken up.

 Over the winter, Joe Schulz reported Wisconsin needs more young people to prevent worsening the labor shortage, but there’s no easy solution:

Twenty-five-year-old Matt Gill grew up in the Fox Valley. After a stint at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, he left Wisconsin last June.

“The reason I left is because I started working remotely after COVID, and my girlfriend got a job in Utah,” he said. “We will probably come back in the future to be closer to our family, but it depends on how her career goes.”

Gill works in information technology, or IT, while his girlfriend is a naturalist educator at a nature center in Utah.

But their story isn’t unique. Over the last decade, the state lost 106,000 people under the age of 26, according to a recent report by Forward Analytics, the research arm of the Wisconsin Counties Association. 

If Wisconsin doesn’t improve efforts to attract and retain young people, its labor shortage could get worse by the end of the decade — but there’s no simple solution to address the issue. And, if demographic trends continue, the state’s working-age population could shrink by about 130,000 people by 2030, the report found.

“Attracting and retaining these young people is critical for Wisconsin,” said Dale Knapp, director of Forward Analytics, in a statement last September. “Attracting and retaining them would not only grow the current workforce, it would also help long term as many of these young adults will soon be starting a family and raising the next generation of workers.”

Doing so, however, requires a combination of promoting IT jobs already in the state, recruiting industries young people want to work in and embracing the state’s growing diversity, according to local government officials, researchers and regional economic development organizations.

Dave Egan-Robertson, a demographer for the UW-Madison’s Applied Population Lab, said Wisconsin has traditionally been an importer of high school graduates and an exporter of college graduates.

He said the state generally sees a net gain in people between 15 and 19, but experiences a net loss of individuals between 20 and 24.

Young people have to want to come to Wisconsin and stay in Wisconsin. Young people have to want to come to Whitewater and stay in Whitewater. It’s their wants, and their needs, that will determine whether they’ll stay.

That’s the challenge for everyone else: recognizing that those needs are different, and then being willing to meet those different needs. ‘This is how we’ve always done it’ is the surest expression of how communities keep doing it the wrong way. 

Testing Out JPL’s New Snake Robot:

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