Arts advocates land in the education space

Arts advocates have a place in the education space, according to the head of the Construction Business Group.

Speaking yesterday at the Competitive Wisconsin event at Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville, Robb Kahl noted that many plumbers, carpenters, electricians and others in the trade have six-figure salaries with no student loan debt.

He said college education has always been an attractive proposition, but parents, teachers and guidance counselors have historically pushed more students toward college. Now, he said, those same parents and counselors are “really seeing that we’re really providing an opportunity” for Wisconsin students.

“We are not afraid now about entering high schools … every state, building businesses – so to Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan – has the same need,” he said. “We’re not going to attract kids coming to the border from Minnesota or Iowa because they’re building their own factories, their contractors are trying desperately to save.”

Tracy Pierner, president of Blackhawk Technical College, praised these recruiting efforts. The importance of “acquiring information for parents and teachers and for kids at an older and earlier age” about career opportunities that align with the needs of the public workforce.

“The bottom line is, how do we make better job matching opportunities that we have available in our workforce?” he said.

Rick Sense, president of business development and governance for the Greater Green Bay Chamber of Commerce, agrees that more people see the arts as good options. He called on higher education leaders in the state to decide to steer college students away from “majors who really aren’t useful in the long-term economic growth of our state.”

And because of the demographic problem of the state’s aging workforce, Sens said Wisconsin needs to “do a better job” of creating opportunities for young workers to keep them from leaving the state.

Department of Workforce Development Chief Economist Dennis Winters highlighted Wisconsin’s challenges with attracting these workers, noting the state is “in a world of hurt” when it comes to demographic trends.

To help with this problem, Wisconsin said that we need to bring more skilled professionals and those with capital investment to move to the state, so “we can increase, essentially, the economic good that we have in the state and the quality of life around.”

Kahl also pointed to broadband speed as an “essential part” of the state’s talent pipeline, especially for rural areas of the state. He noted that local officials understood this need, and actively applied for federal funds to expand the expansion.

“I think it’s only going to help grow and grow our transportation infrastructure,” he said. “You have more people who want to move to a part of the city that they didn’t realize before, it increases the need for other infrastructure, it increases business opportunities, it increases opportunities for economic growth.”

Listen first to the podcast with Kahl:

-By Alex Moe

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