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January 17, 2001

'Brain Drain'' Topic for Regional Employment Forum

An overview of western Wisconsin's workforce future and techniques to train and retain skilled workers will be discussed in an evening forum at UW-River Falls on Jan. 30.

"Stemming Wisconsin's 'Brain Drain:' Education and Employment for Western Wisconsin's Future" will be held from 6-9 p.m. in Rodli Commons. The forum is free and open to the public.

Keynoting the evening will be Terry Ludeman, a labor statistics analyst with the Department of Workforce Development in Madison. He will address "What Does the Future Hold for Jobs and Education in Western Wisconsin" with an emphasis on Barron, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix counties.

Ludeman will present data on demographic trends in the St. Croix Valley, Wisconsin and the Midwest. He said that most people will find it to be startling.

"Many people are aware that our work force is getting older. But I don't think that those in business, industry, government or education realize what a radical and dramatic change is under way. It is absolutely mind-boggling. A lot of people don't realize the depth of the change.

"If we don't deal with it quickly, we will be up against the wall," Ludeman said. Through the Upper Midwest, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas are facing similar situations.

Locally, Ludeman noted that Pierce, Polk and St. Croix counties are experiencing the same kind of rapid and significant population change that has occurred in the suburban counties of Waukesha, Racine and Ouzakee counties that ring Milwaukee.

St. Croix County is serving as a regional magnet in western Wisconsin and will continue to have greater impact on its surrounding counties, including Barron and Pepin, he added.

Ludeman said that he will provide substantial demographic profiling information on the St. Croix Valley and its potential implications for the work force, educational needs and infrastructure such as housing and transportation.

The Jan. 30 forum is a continuation of a St. Croix Valley Regional Economic Summit in October and Wisconsin's statewide New Economy Summit in November that are exploring the most effective means to incorporate information technology and technology infusion into local economies, and to train a highly skilled technology workforce.

Among the seven issues that emerged in the St. Croix Valley was the need to retain and attract highly skilled workers.

UW-RF Chancellor Ann Lydecker noted that both the regional and state summit participants reported high confidence in the quality of education and training provided by K-12, technical colleges and the University of Wisconsin System.

Conversely, Lydecker added, Wisconsin does not rate well in maintaining its workforce. It ranks 7th in exporting college graduates and 49th in attracting them.

Addressing those issues at the Jan. 30 forum will be a panel discussion on "Successful Partnering to Build Quality Jobs and Educate the Workforce." Associate Dean Mary Manke, who is co-chairing the forum, said the panel "will share some information about exciting partnerships between education and partners in business and industry."

The panel will be followed by group discussions on identifying concerns and developing action steps to lead to greater partnering "to build better jobs and improve education so we can build an economy that attracts able people to western Wisconsin and keeps them here," Manke said.

For more information on the forum, call 715/425-3774. To learn more about the New Economy forums, visit

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