Wisconsin, like other Midwest states, benefits from generations of workers with strong work ethics and skills. These traits were enhanced by a vocational education system that generated skilled workers for all trades needed to fuel our economic engine. Unfortunately, today many conversations revolve around our aging workforce and the growing skills gap and “workforce paradox” facing our country. How can the unemployment rate be so high with manufacturers struggling to fill skilled positions? Many of the answers lie squarely on our shoulders and in our own business models! For many years, manufacturers have neglected to invest in talent as much as technology or equipment. Traditional vocational schools stopped generating skilled workers because manufacturers did not hire enough students, and parents did not support children entering the trades—“those dirty low-technology manufacturing jobs do not provide sustainable career opportunities.” Interestingly, manufacturing today is very technical and requires a variety of skilled talent to meet production requirements. US talent is some of the best in the world and that is why we score high in productivity. Unfortunately, we are not seeing enough young new talent entering our workforce because there is no good pathway. We have dug a hole—now we must fill it quickly to prevent a talent void in our factories. We must provide easy on-ramps and exits to the “learning highway”. It is our responsibility to create career pathways for our young people. Partnerships with our public schools, technical colleges and universities are paramount to creating successful education pathways that lead to accelerated career opportunities for our youth. – Jeff Clark