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Applications open for $100 million in Workforce Innovation Grants

September 8, 2021
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Applications are now open for grants of up to $10 million to local and regional projects that will help meet the state’s next-generation workforce needs, Governor Tony Evers announced today.

The Workforce Innovation Grant Program will enable communities to develop groundbreaking, long-term solutions so businesses can find workers, workers can connect to jobs, and Wisconsin can thrive, Governor Evers said.

“I’m proud of the investments we’ve made to ensure our economy can recover from the hardships of the last year, but we can’t just go back to the economy we had going into the pandemic—we need to make investments that will address our longstanding workforce challenges and prepare our communities for long-term success,” said Gov. Evers. “These funds will do just that by allowing local leaders to address the unique needs of their communities, whether it’s lack of access to affordable childcare and transportation or providing the necessary training to help folks switch careers.”

The Workforce Innovation Grant Program offers grants from $250,000 up to $10 million to regional economic development partners to design and implement innovative plans to tackle their communities’ most pressing workforce challenges.

The grants, which will be funded with federal American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) money, will be available to nonprofit or governmental entities to help implement collaborative, innovative plans to tackle a specific region’s most pressing workforce challenge.

Grant funds can be used to meet local workforce needs, such as childcare, transportation issues, upskilling and re-skilling workers, or career counseling and coaching services, and may be used to support initiatives like training, planning, marketing, or developing pilot programs that can be applied in other communities. Grant funds cannot be used to replace existing public resources.

The grants will be administered through an interagency effort between the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the Department of Workforce Development (DWD).

“We’ve heard from businesses around the state that there’s no one-size-fits all solution to building Wisconsin’s workforce,” said Missy Hughes, WEDC secretary and CEO. “The Workforce Innovation Grants will enable communities to develop groundbreaking, long-term solutions that are right for them so businesses can find workers, workers can connect to jobs, and Wisconsin can thrive.”

“Wisconsin’s economy differs by region, offering unique opportunities for regional solutions to workforce challenges including transportation, child care and gaps in the skills needed by local employers,” said DWD secretary-designee Amy Pechacek. “The Workforce Innovation Grant Program will reward creativity, promote sustainable regional collaboration and foster local participation to address these and other workforce challenges resulting from an extended period of labor disruption.”

Grant applications, frequently asked questions, and program guidelines will be available on the WEDC website at wedc.org/workforce-innovation-grant.

Funds are expected to be distributed in two rounds. Applications for Round 1 are due no later than 5:00 PM CST on Oct. 25, 2021, with awards announced in mid-November 2021. Program dates and application details for Round 2 will be announced in 2022.

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