Contact: David Ward or Dennis Winters at 608-441-8061 or Tom Still at 608-442-7557
MILWAUKEE – At a time when some tech-based states experienced double-digit losses in “knowledge” workers, Wisconsin added jobs in some important sectors, according to a report released Wednesday by the Wisconsin Technology Council.The report, titled “Human Capital and Brain Power in the Wisconsin Economy,” was prepared by NorthStar Economics as the first of four follow-ups to the Tech Council’s 2002 report, “Vision 2020: A Model Wisconsin Economy.”
Download the report here (PDF)
The report noted that Wisconsin ranks ahead of the U.S. average in high school graduates (88.8 percent of the adult workforce versus 85. 2 percent nationally) and ahead of the nation in adult workers who hold two-year associates degrees, most commonly granted by the Wisconsin Technical College System (8.3 percent versus 7 percent).
The state still lags, however, in the number of four-year college graduates. In 2004, 25.6 percent, or about 906,240 Wisconsin residents, had earned at least a bachelor’s degree as compared to 27.7 percent of the U.S. population. Wisconsin has increased its college-educated percentage of the workforce in every year since 2000 but the rate of growth is not enough to close the gap with the national averages.
While the number of four-year college grads is lower than the U.S. average, the report noted that Wisconsin appears to be adding doctoral-level scientists and engineers at a healthy pace. Preliminary data shows an increase of about 400 people in that category in recent years, a sign that “knowledge-based” companies and research institutions are attracting and retaining talent.
Dr. David Ward, who authored the report, noted that Wisconsin added workers in some high-tech, management and creative worker categories at a time when some celebrated technology states – Massachusetts and New Hampshire, for example — lost significant numbers of workers.
“In a difficult economic climate, Wisconsin has made progress in many areas,” Ward said. “The encouraging signs in the data for 2003 and 2004 data need to continue in order for the state to grow its per capita income to the national average. State incentives passed in the 2003-2005 state budget may be timely in further encouraging the growth in high-wage jobs.”
However, Ward cautioned that Wisconsin cannot lose sight of the need to educate more college-trained workers for 21st century jobs.
“Despite signs of progress, the state must concentrate on the education level of its workforce. Below average numbers of college graduates is an area of concern,” Ward said. “One only has to look to neighboring Minnesota to find a state that has 20 percent more colleges graduates in its workforce and per capita income that is nearly $4,000 higher. That economic equation is compelling and should provide a clear path for Wisconsin’s future actions.”
Tech Council President Tom Still said the report represents an effort to routinely examine “New Economy” indicators that better tell the story of how Wisconsin is performing in today’s competitive, global economy.
“Many economic indicators track data that was relevant in a bygone era, but relatively few attempt to examine factors – such as human capital, investment capital, knowledge and technology, and business entrepreneurship and networks – that are vital to today’s competitive economy.”
The Tech Council is the independent, non-profit and non-partisan science and technology adviser to the Governor and the Legislature. For more on past Tech Council reports, go to www.wisconsintechnologycouncil.com