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Experts: workforce may shrink as workers age

Experts: workforce may shrink as workers age

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - In just a few years, the biggest problem for Wisconsin's economy could be a shortage of workers.

Economists say Wisconsin's workforce is expected to lose big numbers of Baby Boomers in the coming years, with people over the age of 65 predicted to grow from 14 to 24 percent.

"They're the biggest population in our workforce so as they leave, our workforce becomes smaller," said Carol Wagenson of Workforce Connection in La Crosse. "There's nowhere near the amount of people entering the workforce as there is when the baby boomers leave."

Kwik Trip is one of thousands of companies that's about to experience a shortage of workers - and they know it.

"Back in 2007, we knew the number of Gen Xers was not going to equal the number of Baby Boomers retiring," said John McHugh, spokesperson for Kwik Trip.

The company is planning losses in its trucking, IT and mechanics departments. Directors there are focused on recruiting fresh faces to their ranks by staying competitive with other companies.

"We're going to fight for talent, and you need to be known," McHugh said.

Kwik Trip recently created a recruiting department to help attract new employees. It's always partnering with places like Western Technical College to find graduates.

La Crosse's Job Center suggests that companies take a look back at their aging workers, and find a way to keep them around in a different capacity.

"We as businesses need to identify how we can keep them attached to us for a longer period of time," Wagenson said.

She added about one in four Baby Boomers want to stay in the workforce, just in a different capacity - whether that be fewer hours, different responsibilities or a new title.

Kwik Trip's workforce is actually trending younger, in part because of their part-time retail jobs inside the gas stations.

But still, those younger workers are helping the company offset at least some of the Baby Boomers that are leaving.

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