Central Wisconsin lawmakers support workforce grants

September 10, 2013

From wisconsinrapidstribune.com: “Central Wisconsin lawmakers support workforce grants” — A proposed state grant program would allow Wisconsin Technical College System schools to obtain funding to work with businesses and economic development agencies to help address documented skills gaps or high workforce shortages in their regions.

Introduced and cosponsored by state Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, and Rep. Scott Krug, R-Rome, the Workforce Growth Program would allocate $10 million to the Technical College System to offer rapids response grants for job training scholarships; building or infrastructure construction; equipment and material purchases; faculty hiring; curriculum development; or student career support services, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau.

“What we’ve been hearing from local businesses all across the state is that there really is a skills gap, and they’re having difficulty finding workers with the right skills,” Lassa said in a Central Wisconsin Sunday interview. “The workforce growth plan is designed to be flexible to address those needs.

“It really has a holistic approach, and it builds off the model of the successful (Workforce Advancement Training) program, which is wildly popular all across the state.”

For organizations such as the North Central Workforce Development Board, which serves nine counties in central and northern Wisconsin, the grant program would make more resources available to help potential workers gain skills employers are looking for in applicants, said Jane Spencer, workforce services director for the Stevens Point-based organization, which is one of 11 such boards throughout the state that closely partners with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and local technical colleges.

“We have good working relationships with them,” Spencer said. “All those partners are coming to the table to determine what is best and how we can deliver (worker training) in a flexible way.”

A grant program would allow all entities involved to refine their efforts even more on individuals who need it the most, she said.

Mid-State Technical College is among local post-secondary institutions the board has worked with to create several training programs, including a food science certificate, a machine tool training program and others, said Ann Krause-Hanson, vice president of academic affairs for the college, which has campuses in Wisconsin Rapids, Marshfield and Stevens Point, as well as a learning center in the city of Adams.

“Any opportunity or any support that we can have for doing customized training or training for business and industry is totally appreciated,” she said. “We do a lot of customized training for business and industry already, so we have a good reputation.”

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