GDDC officials stress need to recruit, retain workforce in years ahead

Officials with Greater Dubuque Development Corp. on Friday again stressed the need to recruit and retain workforce to the area, as current projections show a decline in the working population over the next several years.

Addressing workforce needs was the main topic of conversation at a GDDC workforce breakfast Friday morning. Nearly 200 community members and business professionals attended the event at Diamond Jo Casino.

“What we are experiencing today when it comes to workforce is a crisis,” said Rick Dickinson, president and CEO of GDDC. “… We must work together. Resources are scarce, and we must not squander them.”

Dickinson shared data from GDDC’s 2021 “skills gap” analysis, which is conducted in partnership with Northeast Iowa Community College.

The analysis shows that there were 66,509 working-age residents in Dubuque County in 2021, as well as 61,643 jobs. Dickinson said projections have the number of jobs catching up to the number of working-age residents in 2025 or 2026.

The analysis also shows a current projection of 66,329 jobs in the county in 2031, with only 63,435 people of a working age available to fill those positions.

However, GDDC officials stressed that the need to address workforce challenges is being felt heavily today.

“In my role, I meet with over 40 HR professionals to see what their needs are,” said Mandi Dolson, director of workforce solutions for GDDC. “Right now, it’s no surprise that everyone has the same need: workforce.”

Recruiting workforce is also a heavy focus on GDDC’s 2027 capital campaign, which includes a goal of increasing Dubuque County’s workforce to more than 64,000 people in the next five years.

Dolson highlighted services offered and events held by GDDC and its partners to attract new employees to Dubuque County.

This includes the Greater Dubuque Summer Career Visit, which kicked off Thursday. To promote the area, GDDC invited individuals from 20 colleges representing more than 70,000 students to connect to soon-to-be graduates looking for jobs.

At the last GDDC workforce breakfast in February, an updated was launched, as well as local sites for Dyersville, Cascade and Peosta. The job-search website is operated by GDDC and the Telegraph Herald.

Dolson said Friday that four more local sites have been launched. Two sites focus on Farley and Epworth, Iowa, while the other two focus on Grant County in Wisconsin and Jo Daviess County in Illinois.

Dickinson encouraged all employers to take advantage of tools offered by GDDC and its partners, especially the job-search websites, as a way to highlight all the area has to offer.

“That’s what economic development is,” he said. “It’s not about making the rich richer. It’s about bringing a better quality of life for everyone we know.”