Since 2017, more than 700 Racine County residents enrolled in a unique program to attain their high school equivalency credential, and eliminated a barrier to better employment.

Gateway Technical College, along with YWCA of Southeast Wisconsin, Higher Expectations of Racine County, and the Southeast Wisconsin Workforce Development Board worked together to help give adults who didn’t finish high school a better chance to succeed in the workforce.

Such training is crucial as state employers struggle to find enough qualified workers in a very tight job market – one estimate says there are two openings for every job seeker. And forecasts say the market will remain tight for years to come.

Gateway’s approach to improving the job opportunities for area residents is just one of more than 20 projects across the state aimed at getting more qualified workers into the pipeline.

Organizers wanted to expand to Kenosha and Walworth counties, but lack of funding held it back. That changed with a $5.6 million Workforce Innovation Grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and the Department of Workforce Development in 2021.

Similar efforts are under way in other parts of the state. Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin received up to $6.5 million to partner with Fox Valley Technical College, Rawhide Youth Services on the area of mental health and trauma. They plan to train more than 200 people to used a trauma-informed approach to education and services.

“They are putting a real mental health focus on their outreach to under-served communities,” said Missy Hughes, CEO of the WEDC.

Roughly $128 million from the American Rescue Plan was put toward the Workforce Innovation Grants.

“These groups have already gained trust with each other, they’d already established whose got what role, they’d already made efforts not to duplicate each other’s roles,” Hughes said. “And we were able to come in with the resources and make them start running with their ideas.”

[Adapted from: Wisconsin employers have two openings for every person seeking a job. Here are some efforts to improve the workforce. December 8, 2022 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]