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Improving licensing leads to workforce gains

November 28, 2023
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Wisconsin DSPS works to increase efficiency, aiding talent retention

By Dan Hereth
Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services

Dan Hereth

Dan Hereth, Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services

When done well, professional licensing can contribute to talent attraction and retention. We never want to lose workers to other states, so making sure our professional licensing system is effective and efficient becomes especially important under conditions of a tight labor market.

Since Governor Evers appointed me secretary-designee of the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS)—the department responsible for licensing professionals in our state—I’ve had two primary focuses: (1) maintaining an emphasis on the safety of Wisconsinites who rely on our work and (2) looking for innovative solutions that make DSPS more efficient in licensing and strengthen our state’s workforce.

I’ve spent the 15 months since that appointment meeting with employers, professional associations, regulatory boards, and other groups across Wisconsin, seeking out common ground and common-sense collaborations that improve licensing processes and make them more efficient while maintaining our commitment to public safety.

DSPS worked with nurses and the Board of Nursing to create more concurrent and efficient processes for licensing those professionals. We worked with Marquette Dental School, the Wisconsin Dental Association, the Dental Examining Board, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to eliminate redundant post-graduate examinations of dental students that slowed down licensing. We worked with professionals and the Plumbing Code Advisory Committee on the first updates to state plumbing code since 2009, and we are partnering with other states to streamline interstate license verifications.

We’ve also worked to improve our internal processes to benefit the state workforce. In August, we launched a new data dashboard, titled “Occupational Licensing: By the Numbers.” The dashboard improves transparency by allowing the public to track our agency’s performance and serves to clear up misconceptions about licensing delays.

The numbers show Wisconsin is issuing more licenses, more quickly, than ever before. As of this writing, the dashboard shows the average time for DSPS to review new application materials is three calendar days. That means a qualified applicant who submits all necessary documentation and meets all legal requirements can expect to have their license approved in a matter of days. The dashboard provides a visual representation of the success we’ve seen at DSPS over the past year—and one reason this success matters is efficient professional licensing contributes to our shared goal of talent attraction and retention.

As of last month, plan reviews performed by DSPS were taking 11-18 days. Compare that to 2017-18, when plan review times consistently took 12-16 weeks! In addition, we’ve reduced legal review times by 67%.

I credit our success to the leadership of Governor Evers. With the federal relief dollars he designated to our agency, we hired more staff for our call center and license review teams, helping us provide a better service to state licenseholders. The funding also allowed us to modernize our technology, partnering with private companies like Salesforce and MTX to streamline processes.

We expect this success to continue into 2024. We have reached an agreement with a testing service that will greatly expand options for those looking to take a trades exam and become a licensed tradesperson in Wisconsin. We’re finalizing a new data-sharing agreement with the State of Indiana, and we’re working toward agreements that will allow our state’s institutions of higher learning to guide a new generation of professionals into our workforce more quickly.

When Wisconsin DSPS wins, so do our state’s industries and licensed professionals. We are proud of what we’ve accomplished in recent months to position Wisconsin as a leader in licensing and to make our state more competitive in growing and retaining its licensed workforce.

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