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A workforce consultant believes 50 percent of the jobs available require more than a high school degree and less than a college degree.

“We’re missing out on the skills thing,” Ted Abernathy, managing partner of Economic Leadership, said Tuesday in Eau Claire.

Companies are looking for employees with personal and people skills and the ability to think and solve problems. They also need people with technical skills “but most companies will do that training,” Abernathy said.

Abernathy was in Eau Claire to help the WMC Foundation unveil its Future Wisconsin Project, which addresses the state’s lack of workers.

Future Wisconsin Project developed a study to determine the best path forward to get more Wisconsinites into the workforce.

“Wisconsin has a math problem,” said Kurt Bauer, chief executive officer of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.

“Our state’s population growth is stagnant, and that serves as a direct impediment to job growth and a strong economic future,” he said.

The report focused on six areas:

• Attracting and retaining talent.

• Providing more skills for existing workers.

• Improving career pathways.

• Promoting apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships, internships and other work-based learning for students.

• Promoting career awareness.

• Reaching disconnected groups.

Abernathy said the first three of the above areas are the most important.

Attracting and retaining talent can be done by increasing state funding for talent attraction, crafting a talent incentive program, continuing the focus on hiring veterans and welcoming diversity, he said.

Incentives such as tax credits and housing vouchers can also bring more people into the state, Abernathy said.

“This whole idea of talent incentives has become a big deal,” he said.

Wisconsin has already done a good job with apprenticeships, Abernathy said.

“That’s part of your DNA here,” he said.

While some Wisconsin communities have done a better job than others in attracting skilled workers, people around the state have to work together, Abernathy said.

“It’s got to be relevant. Everybody has a point of view,” he said.

Wade Goodsell, executive director of the WMC Foundation, agrees.

“We’re trying to get all the voices on the table,” he said.

The need for talent will never go away, Abernathy said.

“No matter how many robots you get, you are still going to need good people,” he said.

Bauer echoes Abernathy’s comments.

“We need a robust marketing campaign that brings more people into Wisconsin and we need to be a national leader when it comes to apprenticeships, internships and training opportunities for current and future workers,” he said.

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