Disparity between jobs and workers grows in Milwaukee, due to transportation problem

Jobs are growing in the Milwaukee area, but workers are having a difficult time getting to them because of transit cuts
Regional transportation group MetroGO! held a forum last month in Brookfield, Wisconsin, that addressed the challenges to the Milwaukee area’s competitiveness, caused by a growing gap between jobs and workers.

The regional transit service that connects workers to area employers has been cut 22 percent since 2001, a trend that is expected to continue. This is an issue because the number of jobs in the area is expected to exceed the working age population -- ages 20 to 64 -- by 2020.

“Filling positions can be difficult,” Denise Huebner, human resources manager at Terex Utilities Inc. in Waukesha, said. “Good transit would give us a bigger candidate pool and the wider skill set we need to fill jobs and support expansion.”

A University of Wisconsin study demonstrated the severity of the commuting problem. It reported that 1,324 fewer employers can be reached by public transportation today than in 2001. Also, more than 13 percent of households in Milwaukee County do not have access to a car, and it’s expected that young people will be driving less than previous generations.

“We are moving beyond the skills gap,” keynote speaker and chief economist at the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Dennis Winters, said. “Now it’s more of a quantity gap, and it cuts across all skill levels.”