Economic development study group to provide update Thursday

Business, labor, community and academic leaders will get a briefing Thursday in Madison about a study in progress that will look at how well prepared Wisconsin is to meet the needs of businesses for skilled employees in coming years.

"The study is concentrating very heavily on the question of supply and demand, looking at major industry clusters, like agriculture and food production, manufacturing, etc., but is also looking very hard at the concept of skill clusters. Not just what kinds of skills are needed, but what capacity do we have to make sure those skill sets are transferable from one sector to another?" said Jim Wood, president of Wood Communications Group, Madison, and strategic counsel to Competitive Wisconsin.

Wood said the study is expected to be presented by about Labor Day. It will be the subject of three summits to be held this fall.

He said the effort stems from the 2010 "Be Bold Wisconsin" study that examined the state's competitive position and urged a new economic development strategy.

"Workforce development is no longer a spectator sport. Everybody from parents to kids to teachers needs to be paying very close attention to this," Wood said.

The briefing will be hosted by Madison Area Technical College, UW-Madison, UW Colleges, UW-Extension and Competitive Wisconsin. It will start at 9 a.m. at the Madison College West Campus, 302 S. Gammon Road. It's one of about a dozen such meetings being held around the state.

The $300,000 study is being funded by grants from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the Bradley Foundation, and corporate donations.