Historic investment in state’s workforce begins to pay off

MADISON, WI. SEPT. 12, 2022 – As communities across Wisconsin embark on comprehensive new efforts to meet their greatest workforce needs, Governor Tony Evers, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes and Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek will be checking in with the latest group of Workforce Innovation Grant recipients to see how the state’s historic investment of more than $128 million is paying off.

“One of our top priorities in rebounding from the pandemic has been making critical investments to develop community-based, long-term solutions to our state’s longstanding workforce challenges,” said Gov. Evers. “We know no two communities are alike and that each part of our state has different needs to meet their workforce demands, whether it’s investing in more skills and jobs training, getting more folks into our health care and education workforces, or expanding access to child care so parents can join our workforce. That’s exactly what makes our Workforce Innovation Grant program so valuable, and I’m looking forward to seeing the good work these projects are already doing across our state.”

In December, Gov. Evers announced the first round of 12 grant winners worth nearly $60 million. Earlier this year Hughes, Pechacek and other members of the Cabinet met with winners to understand how the funding will allow them and their local partners to alleviate workforce challenges – such as education, housing, transportation and child care access in their regions.

“These grants have created powerful coalitions of businesses, nonprofits, state and local governments to address the workforce challenges that could hold our state back,” Hughes said. “Wisconsin realizes that economic development is about than profits – it’s about making smart investments in things like education, housing, child care and more that empower us all to move forward in our careers and lives.”

“Throughout Wisconsin – in rural and urban communities alike – projects funded by the Workforce Innovation Grants are delivering training, removing workforce barriers, and connecting employers with job seekers,” Pechacek said. “DWD applauds the innovative efforts already underway and celebrates the partnerships that will strengthen our workforce for years to come.”

Starting in June, Gov. Evers announced a second round of Workforce Innovation Grants awarded to collaborations across the state. Throughout the fall, Hughes, Pechacek and other members of Governor Evers’ administration will be traveling the state to visit all these projects and see how these grants are transforming Wisconsin’s workforce.

The latest grant recipients are:

Increasing Wisconsin’s Nursing Workforce $4.9 million
Serving 48 counties across Wisconsin, Wisconsin Community Action Program affiliates will work together to train 142 low-income people for careers working in health care. Participants will train at long-term care facilities and have the opportunity for immediate employment.

Early Childhood Education Workforce Training $5.1 million
Working in Milwaukee County, the Community Relations–Social Development Commission will offer training to 105 early child care workers over three years and connect trainees with partner child care centers for employment opportunities. The group will also work with child care centers to help them improve on state quality rankings known as YoungStar.

GROW $264,000
Facing a shortage of qualified teachers who want to work rural Wisconsin school districts, four South Central Wisconsin school districts have developed a scholarship program aimed at helping school districts train and support rural students who want to be educators. The scholarships aim to ensure students graduate with less debt – meaning these new educators are not forced to simply take the job with the highest salary, often in urban or suburban areas. The districts will also begin allowing students to earn education credits while still in high school.

Lac Courte Oreilles Workforce Housing Project $4.6 million
The Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa plan to use the grant funding to build needed water infrastructure for a 32-unit workforce housing development in Hayward.

Housing Opportunity and Mobile Education Solutions (HOMES) $9.8 million
Northwood Technical College and its partner, Impact 7, are working together to create more affordable housing in seven Northwestern Wisconsin counties. The project works on two tracks: First, Northwood Tech will fund and create training sites designed to help community members gain skills needed for advanced manufacturing jobs, which pay higher wages. Second, Impact 7 will create a fund that will help reduce the risk for housing developers creating affordable multi-family rental housing that includes a training center.

Trauma-Informed Care in Education and Training $6.5 million
Mental health problems and trauma keep a significant number of people out of the workforce. This initiative created by Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin, Rawhide Youth Services and Fox Valley Technical College will train more than 200 people in using a trauma-informed approach to providing education and services. Those trained will reach out to up to 460 people in the Fox Valley to provide the education and assistance needed to place individuals in family-sustaining careers.

Housing: An Innovative Solution to Early Childhood Education Workforce Needs $5 million
Local Initiatives Support Corporation and its partners will undertake a pilot project in Milwaukee to build up to 50 homes for child care workers. Due to the field’s low wages, housing costs can be a substantial burden for child care workers. The program seeks to provide affordable housing as a way to retain qualified early childhood educators.

Expanding Nurse Clinical Instructor Capacity $376,000
Currently, the UW System estimates that each year about 3,000 nurses are trained in Wisconsin. If that number remains consistent, by 2035 the state will face a shortage of about 20,000 nurses. To address this, the UW Board of Regents, Green Bay’s St. Vincent and Aurora BayCare hospitals will begin a co-clinical instructor program. Working with UW-Green Bay’s nursing program, area health care providers will provide clinical placements to train more nursing instructors.

Lakeshore Industry 4.0 Pathways and Upskilling $1.7 million
The program developed by Lakeshore Technical College and its partners will focus on eliminating barriers to seeking new skills by bringing educational opportunities into the communities in Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Ozaukee and Calumet counties. A mobile lab will be used to help workers gain in-demand skills.

Forest Industry Workforce Recruitment & Development Initiative $8 million
UW-Stevens Point’s Wisconsin Forestry Center and its partners plan to revitalize Wisconsin’s forestry industry by training workers to use the latest technology. The project calls for outreach to both public and Menominee Nation schools to get young people interested in the career. In addition to developing a high school curriculum, the program will develop two certificate programs to help workers upskill and regional training hubs.

Workforce Transportation Solutions for Working Parents $4.2 million
The high costs of both transportation and child care keep some parents out of the workforce. MobiliSE and its partners are hoping to change that by providing affordable door to door transportation and using child care centers as mobility hubs in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties.

Careerforce Build-Up $3.5 million
The Boys & Girls Club of Dane County and its partners will create a skilled trades training program for youth up to age 24 in Dane and Walworth counties. The program will be combined with entrepreneurship training to show youth how they can build their own businesses.

Thinkability Wisconsin $9 million
The Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin and its partners will provide people with intellectual and developmental disabilities with training and supportive services to help them succeed in entering and staying in the workforce. Services will be available in 53 counties.

Waupaca County Workforce Transportation System $3.2 million
The Waupaca County Economic Development Association and its partners plan to develop a transportation system geared toward the workforce. The system will use all available options including creating a new micro-transit service with five vehicles that could be available any time, using a local taxi service and volunteer drivers.

Advance Southwest Wisconsin $2.9 million
Led by Southwestern Technical College with support from the region’s Cooperative Education Service Agency, UW-Platteville and other partners, this project aims to train workers for successful manufacturing careers. The collaboration intends to create custom upskills trainings to help current workers gain new skills as well as launch a new manufacturing and STEM apprentice program to engage youth. The third piece of the initiative will include targeted employee support with instructors able to provide individual instruction and referrals to other programs.