The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has introduced a new reporting beat focused on the intersection of education and Wisconsin’s workforce. This initiative was created in partnership with Report for America, an organization that places reporters in newsrooms across the country to cover under-reported topics and support local news coverage.
The role of universities and technical colleges is rapidly changing, and this new beat aims to explore the implications of these changes. While the reporter has a background in education reporting, they are starting from scratch in Milwaukee and will cover a broad range of topics including education, business, government, and families. The goal is to understand the cultural and demographic shifts affecting education and the workforce in Wisconsin.
The article highlights that fewer high school graduates in Wisconsin are attending college or university. Factors such as the rising cost of education, student loan debt, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have led people to question the value of a college degree. This decline in college enrollment is not a recent trend, as colleges and universities in Wisconsin have been experiencing declines even before the pandemic.
Demographic trends in Wisconsin are also contributing to workforce shortages. As baby boomers retire, younger workers are needed to fill the gap. However, Wisconsin is experiencing a net loss of young people, with more individuals leaving the state than moving in. This trend is projected to continue, resulting in a shrinking working-age population by 2030. Despite a low unemployment rate, certain job sectors are expected to add significant numbers of jobs by 2030, requiring more skilled workers.
The issue of equity is another important topic in the intersection of education and the workforce. The reporter aims to investigate how systems are meeting the needs of all individuals, including those with disabilities, people re-entering the workforce after incarceration, and individuals who did not receive equitable support in their early education.
Report for America is a national service organization that aims to address the decline in local news coverage. News organizations can apply to have a Report for America corps member assigned to their newsroom. The organization recruits and screens journalists who are then selected by the newsroom. Both the newsroom and Report for America contribute to the journalist’s salary, with the newsroom responsible for raising funds to make the position sustainable.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel currently has three Report for America Corps members covering various topics in Wisconsin. The reporter encourages readers to share their stories and provide feedback on the coverage. The goal is for this beat to evolve over time based on the needs and interests of the community.
Overall, this new reporting beat aims to explore the challenges and opportunities at the intersection of education and Wisconsin’s workforce, addressing issues such as college enrollment, workforce shortages, and educational equity.