PEWAUKEE, Wis. — A new study from local research firm Forward Analytics found that it will likely get harder to fill open jobs around Wisconsin over the next decade.

According to the study, Wisconsin does not have enough young, working-age people to replace workers that will eventually turn 65 and retire. Unless Wisconsin can attract more people from other states or countries, the state’s prime working age population is predicted to shrink by 130,000 over the next eight years.

The findings of the study may be most concerning to employers looking to hire in already hard-to-fill areas, such as manufacturing and health care.

It’s the reason many employers are being proactive in recruiting young talent.

At Waukesha County Technical College, Jason Solberg teaches a dual-enrollment course for high school students. The course goes through the fundamentals of automation systems.

Students learn about pneumatics, and how to repair large mechanical equipment often used in factories.

Solberg said large Wisconsin companies are already courting his students, often coming to speak at his classes about job opportunities at their company.

“It is very cool to see what we are teaching them is in demand out there. Planting the seed really early, it’s a challenge to maintain the positions,” said Solberg.

In recent weeks, Solberg said large companies like Palermo’s Pizza and Eaton have come to discuss career opportunities with his students.

What remains to be seen is how many students with these highly coveted skills will remain in the state to join the workforce.

Nathan Hartung is a senior at New Berlin West High School and is enrolled in Solberg’s class.

After graduation, Hartung wants to train to be an elevator mechanic. However, he said the idea of leaving Wisconsin is tempting.

“I am thinking of moving somewhere else, like to a city where there is more demand,” said Hartung as he worked in the WCTC automation laboratory.

Still, Hartung said he isn’t completely set on leaving the state. He admitted that if he could find a job that paid more than what he could make elsewhere, he would definitely consider remaining in the Milwaukee area.

“It would be nice to stay in Wisconsin and get a job that pays well enough because I could still visit my family, and that wouldn’t be very far away from them,” said Hartung.

Solberg said that many of the companies coming to recruit at his classes are willing to pay generously for skilled manufacturing jobs.

He said some companies are paying between $25 to $53 per hour. ​