GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV)-- Area manufacturers gathered at the KI Convention center to discuss issues facing the industry on Wednesday.
It was for the 2nd annual Manufacturing First Expo. It's a unique opportunity for hundreds in the industry to network together as a whole.
"It ultimately takes people coming together to discuss the issues and that's what we're fostering here today," said Micke Noome, Regional President for First Business Bank, a co-founder of the event.
One of the main issues of the expo is addressing the need for skilled workers.
"We're disappointing customers because we can't hire enough trained and skilled workers in our Oshkosh facility," said John Davis who is the CEO of Great Northern Corporation, one of the many manufacturers at the event, and facing the issue of this skilled worker shortage.
"It's really been an issue for the last 10 years, it's unusual to have 8% unemployment and have trouble finding employees so it really tells us the issue is skills shortage"
Davis said at the last job fair they held they had 130 people come looking for work. Out of the applicants they hired 10 and only retained six.
"In terms of batting average, I'd say 6 out of 130 tells us there is a skill shortage," said Davis.
Great Northern Corporation is a web printing and converting plant, and like most manufacturers needs workers with specific skills.
"With our aging workforce, a lot of baby boomers will be retiring in the next ten years and it will really only get worse," said Davis.
While the growing interest in technical college has helped the industry, it's still not enough. It's an issue the state has been looking at since Governor Walker took office.
"We know that Wisconsin will need at least a million new workers, replacement workers by 2018, the one thing we can do is start creating those pipelines right now," said Reggie Newson, the Secretary of the Wisconsin Workforce Development Board.
Newson said the state has been pioneering studies and talking to companies to see what the needs are. A few things they are working on now is recruitment and working on making the states job center website easier to use.
"The Governor's identified this as a top priority and we are going to work really hard to make sure we come up with some good strategies to help employers in the state of Wisconsin find those skilled workers," said Newson.
They also plan to incorporate manufacturing education into k through 12 schools. Their hope is to eliminate any stigma attached to the industry.
"It's not dark dirty and dangerous in manufacturing environment, these are really great jobs with great futures," said Davis.