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Chamber working to recruit young, skilled workers as boomers retire


WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) -- Efforts are underway locally to get and keep young talent in the central Wisconsin workforce. It’s a need that will get larger as more baby boomers approach retirement, leaving more high skilled positions open.

Aaron Kapellusch is the President and CEO of the Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce. He says they realize how important it is to find and retain young workers with the right training, and help them continue to develop.  “One of the things that we created that was part of our strategic plan, as part of the Chamber, was to create a young professional group that really focused on professional development of our current young professionals in the area, trying to connect those people to each other so they stay in the area and feel connected to the community.”

He says they are working with businesses to find that talent both locally and by recruiting outside the area.  “We’re also working with some of our other partners in the area to try to come up with a strategic plan to work with locating people from outside of town to bring them here, say there’s a plant closing somewhere, that we can target people with the skill sets that our manufacturers here need or other businesses need.”

Kapellusch says the Chamber is also looking at what works in other cities when it comes to luring young, skilled workers to Wausau.  “With the Chamber being involved with some of the economic development activities going on around the region, so we can make sure we look at some of the gaps. We’d look at some of the other models of cities that are out there that are tracking young talent and figure out what are some of the things that really work for them, and how can we implement that here to attract that talent.”

Kapellusch says area businesses and manufacturers still have a need for highly skilled workers, yet the under-30-year-old unemployment rate is very high. He believes that many young people have trained for careers that just aren’t hiring right now.  “I think in some cases, it may be a mismatch in some of the skill sets that some of these people may have acquired in school. There’s also the problem of just people being underemployed, so it’s trying to get the word out that, hey, there’s a lot of great positions not only with four-year-degrees, but there’s a lot of skilled positions here with two-year degrees as well.”

The Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce encourages people to check with them and with area college and technical school campuses to find out what career fields are hot right now. He also suggests parents start talking to their middle school aged children about what path to take early, to take advantage of programs like dual enrollment and apprenticeships.