ABC of Wisconsin President John Mielke joined various leaders in the construction industry as part of a panel discussion on potential Foxconn construction. The discussion, at Memorial Hall in Racine, allowed for some dialogue on how to meet the potential labor challenges posed by a project the magnitude of a Foxconn campus in far southeastern Wisconsin.

The issue of various stakeholder groups collaborating to address the challenge of finding enough skilled workers to build the $10 billion plant was a common theme among the speakers.

“It’s going to take cooperation,” Mielke said. “The reason Foxconn is here is because of the cooperation of so many parties in Wisconsin. We need to continue this,” he added. He said it is incumbent upon the construction industry now to show competence and continue down a collaborative path. Other speakers emphasized the need to work on this problem now, given it takes years to train skilled construction workers.

Much of the discussion centered around the potential of so many young people who are underemployed or unemployed and the opportunity this offers individuals who have an interest in construction.

“We could provide industry recognized credentials to these individuals that are stackable,” Mielke said. “We should provide credentials that the industry values and allow them to stack credentials and increase earning potential.”

Panelists agreed that while the shortage of skilled workers is going to pose problems for contractors, there is a major benefit for workers. The free enterprise principle of market demand will ensure that the salaries of construction workers rise, which is what the state has been looking to do in Wisconsin for many years.

The event, attended by more than 100, was organized by The Daily Reporter. Panelists joining Mielke were Dan Bukiewicz, president of the Milwaukee Building & Construction Trades Council, Roger Clark, Southeastern Wisconsin Building & Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, Mike Fabishak, CEO, Associated General Contractors of Greater Milwaukee, Representative Corey Mason (D-Racine), mayoral candidate for City of Racine, Georgie Maxwell, Deputy Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and Terry McGowan, president/business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139.