Governor visits Gateway Tech to promote training grants

March 20, 2014

From journaltimes.com: “Walker promotes Wisconsin Fast Forward program at SC Johnson iMet Center” — STURTEVANT — A $35 million increase in worker training will help schools such as Gateway Technical College get more people into in-demand programs, Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday.

Walker appeared at the SC Johnson iMET Center, 2320 Renaissance Blvd., to promote the increase becoming law Monday. Much of the money, which will go into a training program called Wisconsin Fast Forward, is geared toward grants for technical colleges.

The grants will allow colleges to “buy down” long waiting lists for its programs, Walker said.

“We can make sure there’s no excuse for employers who need folks,” Walker said. “If there’s any waiting list in any of those areas, we’re going to put the money through the Wisconsin Fast Forward program to help each of our individual campuses.”

The move ensures the state does not take a “one-size-fits-all” approach — one area of the state may need high-skilled welders, while another may need mechanics, Walker said. Officials want to work with each campus to address its specific needs, he said.

The $35 million also will go toward expanding programs for employers to hire more people with disabilities, as well as collaborative projects between school districts, tech colleges and businesses.

The measure passed the Legislature with broad bipartisan support. Gateway President Bryan Albrecht praised the increase, calling it “an investment in our students.”

“It’s going to make a big difference in our communities so that we can provide the workforce that they need,” Albrecht said.

The state’s focus is not only on filling existing jobs, but on future jobs created through new economic development, Walker said. Wisconsin will see many retirements in the coming years and needs to prepare other workers to fill those roles, he said.

Walker predicted the state will eventually turn its attention from creating jobs to filling jobs.

“We’re going to need more bodies,” he said. “It’s my firm belief that we can’t afford to have anyone who is able and willing to work sitting on the wayside.”

In comments to reporters after the speech, Walker touted recent company expansions into Racine and Kenosha counties, including Meijer’s plans to open a distribution center in Pleasant Prairie and a future Amazon.com facility in Kenosha.

Those are “good signs for southeastern Wisconsin” and will help address unemployment in the region, he said.

He also said the state’s tax climate and focus on growing companies organically helps sway out-of-state companies into expanding into Wisconsin.

“That should show companies, whether they’re coming from Illinois or Minnesota or anywhere else, that we’re not just the short-term romance,” Walker said. “We’re a long-term commitment with businesses that want to grow and create jobs here.”

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