THIS IS WHY employers can’t find workers

As local employers struggle to find employees, data from the Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce highlight exactly why: There are now 10,000 less people in the workforce than there were eight years ago in Marathon County. That’s equivalent to the entire populations of Kronenwetter and Schofield disappearing.

And the gap between job openings and workers to fill them will only get worse, experts say.

In 2008, there were roughly 70,000 workers in Marathon County. That number dropped to below 60,000 by 2010, and it hasn’t climbed back much.

That scenario is only going to get worse as more baby boomers leave the workforce through retirement, says McDevco Executive Director Jim Warsaw. He says a recent survey of 30 area manufacturers revealed 600 job openings, and that’s expected to grow to 1,500 in a handful of years. The health care industry could see double that.

Leaders such as Warsaw or Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce President/CEO David Eckmann say that makes two things critical: making the area more attractive for young professionals, and keeping young professionals who are already here.

The Chamber recently launched The Branch, a program to develop entrepreneurial skills in students who work on real projects, gaining skills valuable to businesses in the process and hopefully fostering the next generation of entrepreneurs and young professionals.

And McDevco’s Nick O’Brien has an event called SOUP in the works. The event pairs “ideators,” who can come up with anything from ideas for business to community projects with those who would fund them. Attendees buy bowls of soup made by Downtown Grocery and listen to Shark Tank style pitches. Attendees then vote for the project they like best, with the winner getting funded from money raised at the event. That even is slated for the empty Wausau Club building for Friday, Oct. 21.