Winona faces major shortage of skilled workers

The city of Winona is dealing with a 1,000 person shortage

The city of Winona is dealing with a shortage of about 1,000 skilled workers. The Chamber of Commerce and Winona State University held an economic summit Wednesday to discuss the challenging workforce.

As the former CEO of Peerless Industrial Group in Winona and now an adviser to the company, Tom Wynn has seen the labor pool in his community dwindle.

“For a long time, we’ve had trouble hiring enough employees,” Wynn said.

And it isn’t just Peerless. A number of companies are suffering.

“One right up the street from us, they are busing in every day 20 people from La Crosse to work at their place I know another manufacturer that is looking for 40 manufacturing jobs right here in Winona,” Wynn said.

He said the city is in need of a specific type of worker.

“Not customer services or sales people, but we struggle finding tool and die makers and machinists and electricians,” Wynn said.

He said companies need to find those types of workers quickly because Winona’s economy relies on them.

“Many of them are world leaders like Fastenal and Peerless and Benchmark,” Wynn said.

“People get surprised about Winona, how diverse and international we are,” said Gabriel Manrique, a member of the Winona Chamber of Commerce.

Leaders at the 2015 Economic Summit worked on ways to fix the shortage. They said local college kids could be the solution.

“Because a lot of them don’t think about building a career in Winona, but we feel if we can inform them and expose to what is available in Winona a few of them will stay,” Manrique said.

The university is even putting out a publication geared towards attracting student to local jobs. But Wynn said a degree is not necessary for the kinds of workers most businesses in Winona are looking for.

“I encourage people to think about the possibilities of other things than a four year degree,” Wynn said.