From “Walker signs plan at BTC” – By Shaun Zinck – Gov. Scott Walker signed a $35 million bill at Blackhawk Technical College on Monday morning to help fund technical college programs and train more workers in advanced manufacturing.

Walker said the bill would affect three areas in the state: bring down the waiting lists on high-demand areas of studies at technical colleges; offer more opportunities for college and high school partnerships for dual credits; and help people with disabilities find jobs in Wisconsin.

“We go out on campuses and we see what’s happening,” Walker said. “We see the relevance we talked about that are connecting not only students, but employers here in Janesville and in Rock County and all over the state of Wisconsin.”

Morna Foy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System, said technical colleges in Wisconsin focus on the opportunities for students to train in specialized skills, and it also helps employers have access to those workers to stay competitive in the marketplace.

“This new prosperity grant will provide another tool for technical colleges to provide help with that purpose and mission to make Wisconsin the greatest economic engine in the world,” she said.

The bill appropriates the funds to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, which will then grant the money to the technical colleges in the state. Walker said the grants are not just workforce development, but economic development, by helping technical colleges “buy down” waiting lists for popular manufacturing programs.

“You hear time and time again from employers that, ‘Not only do I need help filling that high-skilled welder, CNC operator, machinist … but I actually have the capacity to add more work if I can fill the positions I have,’” the governor said. “So it’s not just about workforce development, it’s about opening the door so our employers can create more jobs going forward.”

The partnerships between technical colleges and school districts are also very valuable, Walker said. He brought up his recent tour to the Beloit Memorial High School Technical Education Programming Space.

“It was a great example when you see the technology incorporated on campus right there at a high school,” Walker said. “One of the exciting things we were seeing is young people that are not only excited about what they are learning, but earning credits for high school graduation, and then have that apply to going on to pursuing the rest of what they need for their career at a technical college.”

Helping people with disabilities find employment is also important because no one can “be on the sidelines,” Walker said.

“With this bill we are setting money aside to expand programs like Project Search, which helps young people with disabilities start to explore what their abilities are, and plug them into those as they transition from high school to the workplace,” he said. “We want to help employers find the unique abilities of people who are otherwise identified as having disabilities. This is not a charity program. This is to find their unique abilities so you have an asset for the employer and the employee. It’s a win-win.”

All three parts will help the economy in Wisconsin grow, Walker said.

“By filling key positions, and helping companies know that when they choose to expand and grow here in the State of Wisconsin, they are going to have a steady, strong supply of well-trained, well-prepared, well-educated, hardworking employees that will make them prosperous for many years to come,” he said.

After the bill signing Walker spoke to the media, and when asked, he declined to answer detailed questions about whether he was aware a secret email system existed in the Milwaukee County executive’s office when he held the position, or whether he personally used that system.

“I’ve pointed out the district attorney spent multiple years looking at that and chose to end the report last March,” he said. “I don’t really need to go through and examine all the details. I’m not going to go through things of the past. The district attorney looked at it and chose not to act on anyone else and I think it speaks for itself.”

From “Businesses in Wis. eligible for $15 million in grants to close skills gap” – Wisconsin businesses are now eligible to apply for a grant to help close the workforce skills gap.

The Fast Forward worker training grant program is providing $15 million worth of funding to help businesses address the need for skilled workers.

On Tuesday, Shelly Harkins from the State Department of Workforce Development spoke about the program at Wisconsin Indian Head Technical College in Superior.

The grants enable businesses to deliver customized training to workers and local job seekers.

Bob Meyer, president of WITC, says this new program will help address the shortage of skilled labor which many businesses in the state are facing.

“It has been estimated that if we can match the right skills and talent with vacant jobs, we can actually reduce unemployment by 2.5 percent in the Minnesota, Wisconsin region,” said Meyer.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed the program into law last March.

Walker is proposing to add another $34 million to the program.

So far, two rounds of grants have been given out.

In round one, $2.6 million was awarded to 32 grantees in the targeted training sector.

Almost half of the grants partnered with a technical college to provide training in their area.

In round two, $7.5 million will be awarded to seven areas of Wisconsin.

From “WMC Foundation looks into 20-year strategic plan for Wis.” – LA CROSSE – With the baby boomers retiring, Wisconsin will soon lose it’s largest group of workers.

The Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Foundation is looking for ways to replace them.

WMC Foundation President Jim Morgan traveled to Western Technical College Tuesday to find out where there is a job shortage in La Crosse, and discuss ways to train students to fill those positions.

The foundation will use that information to create a 20-year strategic plan for the state, called “Future Wisconsin.”

“And we’re trying to look at a couple of key areas like talent attraction, business competitiveness, globalization, entrepreneurship. The types of things that I think if we’re going to be successful in 20 years, we’ve got to start planning for now,” Morgan said.

There’s already a need for welders and machinists, he added.

The WMC Foundation will be meeting with 16 technical colleges, along with other schools, businesses and commerce associations for input.

From “Walker plan for worker training gets support” — Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to spend $35 million to help technical colleges train people for high demand jobs is finding support at a legislative hearing.

Backers of Walker’s proposal testified Tuesday before the Assembly’s Committee on Workforce Development. The full Assembly was expected to vote on the plan next week.

Walker wants to spend $35 million to eliminate waiting lists for high demand fields at technical colleges, help high school students get trained for high-demand jobs through dual enrollment programs and support programs that help people with disabilities find work.

Wisconsin technical college system president Morna Foy says she is “stoked” about the possibility of the funding being approved. She says it would definitely result in more people getting trained for jobs in high-demand areas.

From “Leading state business lobby looks to create 20-year strategic plan for Wisconsin” — By Karen Rivedal – The state’s biggest business group — Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce — is partnering with higher education leaders and the state’s job creation agency on a 20-year strategic business plan for Wisconsin.

Tentatively titled the Future Wisconsin Project, the effort will focus in its first year mostly on the oft-reported lack of skilled workers in manufacturing and many other challenged industries and sectors of the workforce, such as information technology.

But it’s also about taking a longer look at economic development issues facing the state and creating a workable and enduring system for addressing those issues, with timely input from business, government and academia, WMC president Kurt Bauer said.

“I think we’re all a little guilty of operating from month to month, year to year, election cycle to election cycle,” Bauer said. “This is supposed to be broader than that. This (will) look out and see what Wisconsin is going to be, and (ask ourselves), ‘Do we like it?’ and if we don’t, ‘How do we change it?’ ”

The goal of developing a lasting “infrastructure of communication” among the key parties is the main thing that differentiates the WMC project from other broad economic studies and initiatives such as Be Bold Wisconsin, said Morna Foy, Wisconsin Technical College System president. The tech system is one of the effort’s four partners, along with the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the quasi-public job creation agency recommended by the Be Bold Wisconsin study.

By contrast, Foy said, “(WMC leaders) are trying to build a road map that people can follow this year and the year after that and the year after that.

“Some of the topics they’re interested in examining are big. They go beyond the interests or borders of any individual company. It’s really refreshing for us to see them take that longer view.”

UW System spokesman Dave Giroux credited WMC for involving higher education leaders early in the process and said he liked what he described as WMC’s focus on “human capital, the competitiveness of our business and industry, and the overall quality of life.”

“We see ourselves (in the UW System) touching on these areas in many different ways,” Giroux said.

The effort is motivated by troubling demographic projections that threaten a crisis for Wisconsin’s aging workforce in the decades to come, WMC leaders said.

The Wisconsin Applied Population lab projects 14.2 percent overall population growth in the state by 2040, with about 800,000 more people but most of them over age 65, according to Jim Morgan, president of the WMC Foundation, the group’s research arm.

WMC also cites a Georgetown University Study that predicted 317,130 additional jobs between 2010 and 2020 in Wisconsin but only 15,150 new workers.

Incoming WMC chairman Dan Ariens, president of Brillion-based Ariens Co., an outdoor power equipment manufacturer, said WMC and its partners needed to create a “consensus dialogue” over these issues to effectively address the problem before it gets worse.

“There’s a workforce shortage now,” said Ariens, who also is vice chairman of the WEDC board of directors. “It’ll be a crisis later.”

Beyond workforce development — or “talent attraction,” as the Future Wisconsin project terms it — the issue of business competitiveness also is slated to be studied closely in year one of the initiative. Future years could focus on other identified issues, likely including global engagement, government effectiveness, life quality and entrepreneurial spirit.

Discussions and ideas also will center around what the parties see as the state’s various strengths and barriers to growth. WMC’s own agenda, mainly representing the viewpoint of business owners and industry, must be balanced by input from the other partners for the initiative to be successful, Foy noted.

“If the script is already written and all the ideas have been thought of, and (WMC leaders are) just doing a yearlong road show (of their conclusions), other parties won’t want to engage,” Foy said. “That’s not my sense at all about what they’re looking for in this. They are really trying to stretch beyond their own view to make sure they get the best and smartest ideas.”

WMC will share plans for the project more widely in the coming weeks and months, starting with its own members Feb. 6 at the group’s annual Business Day, a key membership and lobbying event in Madison.

Jim Morgan, president of the WMC Foundation, a research arm of the group, then will present the project at each of the technical system’s 16 colleges in February and March, with public listening sessions and regular meetings of the partners and other stakeholder groups throughout the year, leading up to a December forum where notes on problems will be compared and action plans could be issued.

Bauer and Ariens said possible end results could include new legislative proposals that WMC could lobby for, and/or more grassroots steps or decisions that any of the partners could take on their own.

“It’s not just going to be another white paper,” Bauer promised. “It’s a process. More than anything, what we want to do is spark the debate and make people aware of what is coming down the road.”

Giroux agreed the project could be unique.

“We haven’t seen before the state’s lead business organization and the two higher education systems working directly together on something of this magnitude,” Giroux said. “We may have seen this model on a small scale, but not like this.”

From “President Barack Obama to highlight job training in Waukesha visit” — President Barack Obama drops into the Republican stronghold of Waukesha County on Thursday morning and is expected to discuss a subject that unites Republicans and Democrats.

Job training.

Obama is due to visit GE’s Waukesha gas engines plant, a facility that employs around 700 people and manufactures natural gas engines.

He is scheduled to tour the plant, meet with executives and line workers, and give a speech, before making his way to an afternoon appearance at a high school in Nashville, Tenn.

A senior Obama administration official said that during his Waukesha appearance, the president is expected to discuss taking executive action to enhance reform of job training programs. The official laid out the general themes of Obama’s visit during a teleconference with reporters.

The Wisconsin stop is part of Obama’s two-day tour after his State of the Union address.

According to the official, the president is striving to amplify key themes from the speech, including expanding economic opportunity for Americans.

“That is the focus of the president’s domestic policy agenda,” the official said. “It is the focus of his efforts to try to find common ground with members of Congress. We certainly are hopeful that there would be some bipartisan common ground that could be found on some basic steps we could take that would expand economic opportunity for every American, in areas like job creation, job training and education.”

The official said the president will “also talk about his willingness to act on his own.

“When Congress refuses to act, the president won’t wait for them,” the official said.

The White House announced that after his speech in Waukesha, Obama will sign a Presidential Memorandum to initiate “an across-the-board review of how to best reform federal training programs.”

Vice President Joe Biden will lead the effort.

A competition will also be launched for the final $500 million of a community college training fund. Every state will be awarded at least one grant. The competition is designed to bolster partnerships with community colleges, employers and industry to “create training programs for in-demand jobs.”

The  senior administration official said the GE plant in Waukesha employs highly skilled workers who are trained to perform specific tasks.

“What the president would like to see is a re-orientation of our job training programs,” the official said. “The president wants to make our job training programs across the country more job-driven.”

The official explained that such reorientation means greater coordination between federal agencies that oversee job training grant programs and local community colleges, communities and employers.

The official said “there are many businesses across the country that, despite what continue to be elevated unemployment rates, still do have openings for workers. The difference is they are looking for workers with a very specific skill set.”

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker has also emphasized the need to get workers the right training to match job openings in fields such as manufacturing and computer technology.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who will greet the president at Mitchell International Airport and be with him at the GE plant, said he expected the focus of the visit will be the economy and jobs.

“It’s something I’ve been talking about for some time,” Barrett said. “It’s what I call ‘ships passing in the night.’ Workers can’t find jobs. Employers can’t find workers. We’ve got to find a way to bring them together.”

The mayor said he hoped to share with Obama the work going on in the Milwaukee area to accomplish that.

He specifically mentioned the work of the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership/BIG STEP, which develops resources and services for companies to expand employment and advancement opportunities by upgrading the skills of current employees and training residents to get family-supporting jobs.

Barrett also cited the work of the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board, which is a government-business partnership that administers employment and training programs; Milwaukee Area Technical College; and Waukesha County Technical College.

Last week, Barrett and mayors from other cities around the country met with Vice President Joe Biden and discussed the manufacturing partnership between workers and employers.

“I’m guessing this is something in their wheelhouse,” Barrett said of Obama’s visit to Waukesha.

From “MATC revamps south side Milwaukee building for worker” — Milwaukee Area Technical College’s failed enterprise center and business incubator on the south side has been converted into an education center that will provide academic and training programs in the largely Latino community.

For many years the MATC enterprise centers — one on the north side and one on the south side — provided low-cost rent designed to help launch new businesses and create jobs.

But a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation in 2008 and 2009 showed many problems with the tax-supported business incubators. Tenants were behind in rent, expenses for the incubators exceeded revenue and there was little or no tracking to determine if the incubators created jobs.

The Milwaukee Enterprise Center North at 2821 N. 4th St. started in 1985 and was sold by MATC in 2011.

But MATC retained the Milwaukee Enterprise Center South, 816 W. National Ave., which opened in 1994.

For a time, the dislocated worker program run by the HIRE Center, in partnership with the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board, was housed in the building to train workers who had lost their jobs.

But the investment board and the HIRE Center consolidated their operations at the investment board offices at N. 27th St. and W. North Ave. in October, said Dorothy Walker, interim dean of MATC’s School of Technical and Applied Sciences.

At the same time, MATC’s F building on N. 4th St., which housed some training programs, was sold to the BMO Harris Bradley Center next door, she said.

Some of the businesses in the incubator didn’t seem to grow well and the economic downturn contributed to the failure of the enterprise center, Walker said.

“As we looked at using space more efficiently and looking at new programs and new areas to best serve the community, we decided to re-purpose the MEC south with a focus on building more educational and training programs there,” she said.

“What we’re doing there now focuses on our core mission and meets the needs of the community.”

So the 127,000-square-foot south side building has undergone $2.3 million in renovations to accommodate the many training programs once located in the F building.

The MATC Office of Workforce and Economic Development, which works with businesses and industry to provide corporations with customized programs, has been moved to the south side.

The college is focusing on locating construction and trade-related training programs there because there are a lot of small contractors on the south side, Walker said.

Now called the MATC Education Center at Walker’s Square, it’s also close to Bradley Tech High School, which has a technical focus on construction. The college will look for ways to connect with the high school, she said.

Bay View High School also has some focus on construction and links there will be sought, she said.

The plumbing program has been moved from the F building to the south campus. The one-year program leads to a technical diploma, and it’s the only plumbing program offered at a technical college in the state, instructor and master plumber Mike Geiger said.

The training program also leads to apprenticeships in three unions — plumbers, steamfitter and sprinkler fitters, he said. Last week students were busy moving washers, dryers and water heaters into the new spaces to begin the plumbing lessons required.

The brick and masonry program also has been moved. The one-semester technical diploma program serves as a pre-apprentice program, said Dragomir Marinkovich, the associate dean for engineering and construction.

Next year the school plans to move its appliance technician program from the downtown campus to the south side, he said.

He said the trade programs are critical because it’s estimated that in the spring construction jobs will start picking up again and “these guys will be ready.”

Continuing education classes also are offered in upholstery and sewing.

Alfredo Luna, associate dean of the office of workforce and economic development, said he’s working with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin, the Walker’s Point Association and other nonprofits and businesses in the area to determine the needs of the community and how the center can help.

Walker said that in addition to construction, there will be a focus around energy, solar and water services.

The south center is not far from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Fresh Water Sciences that’s being constructed on the south side and MATC will look for training areas related to water, she said.

Ald. José Pérez, who represents the area, said he’s excited about the new education center and the possibilities for developing training and jobs for so many who live within walking distance.

“With time, I think there will be so many services, such as registering for classes, filling out financial aid forms, taking classes and specialized training in the trades,” he said.

He’s especially interested in sustainability and water programs. He said that seems to be a natural progression for the area with the new fresh water sciences school, the water council and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District, all located on the south side.

From “CVTC leader: State aid boost keeps job training in high gear” — Any way you look at it, Gov. Scott Walker’s announcement during his State of the State address Wednesday that Wisconsin technical colleges will receive an additional $35 million is good news, Chippewa Valley Technical College President Bruce Barker said.

Barker was enthusiastic after hearing Walker’s remarks about increasing funding for the technical college he oversees and others.

“It’s certainly good news,” Barker said of the additional money, part of a program dubbed Wisconsin Fast Forward. “It’s definitely more money for training and education, and that’s a good thing.”

However, Barker said while that money can be used to hire more teachers, he doesn’t believe it can be spent to add laboratory space, already in high demand at CVTC.

“It’s additional dollars, but we have to see what the requirements will be,” Barker said. “The problem is the capacity of our labs. Our welding lab goes from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and these are year-round programs.”

The main components of Wisconsin Fast Forward aim to eliminate waiting lists in high-demand job markets such as manufacturing, agriculture and information technology, and help high school students get credits through dual enrollment programs between high schools and technical colleges.

CVTC has longer waiting lists for nurse hygienists and nursing programs than in manufacturing or agriculture programs, Barker said.

“We’re certainly seeing a big demand in manufacturing and transportation, for truck drivers. Both of those programs, we’re at maximum capacity,” Barker said.

State Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Lake Hallie, who introduced Wisconsin Fast Forward in the Assembly, said the initiative is a step in the right direction.

“Linking job seekers with employers that target critical and in-demand jobs while working with tech colleges and workforce development centers across the state puts a sharp focus on employment issues at a local level, where need and demand can be best addressed,” she said in a news release.

In addition to those programs, Walker proposed replacing $406 million in property taxes for technical colleges with state dollars. That would be accomplished by lowering the property tax levy that technical colleges can assess on homeowners.

“It’s a step in the right direction for local taxpayers,” Barker said. “But with the switch to state dollars, you fear losing local control. You also fear a cut in the state budget.”

Wisconsin Technical College System President Morna Foy said in a statement Thursday that Walker’s plan brings better balance to the system’s funding structure. Foy said the system has “long sought greater equity between local and state investments.”

From “Apprenticeship program numbers increase in Wisconsin” – MADISON – As companies and workers realize the value of apprenticeship program, the involvement in them is increasing, reports Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson.

“Wisconsin’s economy is improving, employers are hiring and increasingly taking advantage of our Wisconsin Apprenticeship program so that workers have the right skills,” Newson said in a statement. “The unemployed and underemployed also see this proven on-the-job training program as one way to get a good job. The numbers last year show it. We saw growth in all three major trade sectors, construction, manufacturing and services, the best we’ve growth we’ve seen in three years.”

According to the DWD, new apprentice contracts in 2013 increased by 31 percent compared to 2012 and by 56 percent compared to three years ago. The increases by trade sectors were:

•Construction – new apprentices, 1,570, the biggest increase, 51 percent compared to 2012 new contracts and 73 percent compared to new contracts three years ago.
•Industrial/manufacturing – new apprentices, 581, a 9 percent increase compared to the 2012 new contracts and 75 percent compared to new contracts in 2010.
•Service – new apprentices, 1,199, a 22 percent increase compared to the 2012 new contracts and a 29 percent increase compared to 2010 figure.

The 26th Biennial Apprenticeship Conference, The Apprenticeship Solution: Meeting the Workforce Challenge will be held Jan. 26 to Jan. 28 in Wisconsin Dells and will include a special Apprentice Expo for high school students. The conference program includes nationally recognized speakers Anirban Basu, president and CEO of SAGE Policy Group and Mark Breslin, founder and CEO of Breslin Strategies. Dan Ariens, president and CEO of the Ariens Company will also speak at the conference, co-sponsored by DWD and the Wisconsin Apprenticeship Advisory Council.

From “Deadline nears for Wisconsin companies seeking state worker training funds” – Wisconsin companies have until Monday to apply for manufacturing worker training funds through the Wisconsin Fast Forward program.

The program, passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker earlier this year, includes $15 million during the 2013-15 biennium for employer-led worker training programs.

Training funds are made available through grant program announcements reflecting an analysis of workforce needs from labor market data, input from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and the Wisconsin Technical College System, and documented skill needs shared with the Office of Skills Development by companies around Wisconsin.

Businesses, in concert with local workforce and economic development organizations and training providers, can apply for grants to fill a skill need not currently met by an existing program.

Awards will be announced early in 2014.


From “Job Center helps company add jobs quickly” — Some state officials are celebrating a jobs success story in Appleton.

Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch stopped by Clean Power today.

Company president Jeffery Packee says a partnership with the Job Center of Wisconsin, and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College helped his company hire new workers, quickly. He says they had to fill about 50 positions in just over two weeks, after they got a contract from Marinette Marine. Packee says the workers needed a variety of skills.

Packee says all of the jobs are full-time, and they’re now adding 34 more workers. He says Clean Power is using the job center again, to fill those positions.


From “Opinion: Milwaukee making progress on developing its manufacturing workforce” — By Tom Barrett, mayor of Milwaukee - Around the country, October is Manufacturing Month. It is a celebration of modern manufacturing, and it provides an opportunity for us to encourage people to look at careers in manufacturing.

Milwaukee’s regional economy relies on manufacturing more so than just about anywhere else in the United States. For everyone in our region manufacturing presents both opportunities and challenges. How will we create a skilled manufacturing workforce, and, at the same time, how do we spur economic development?

The 2013 Talent Shortage Survey, released by Milwaukee-based ManpowerGroup, cites skilled trades as the No. 1 hardest job to fill in the United States, and there is plenty of other evidence, both empirical and anecdotal, that we need well-prepared workers to keep our manufacturing economy humming.

A little over a year and a half ago, along with Milwaukee’s workforce partners, we created the Mayor’s Manufacturing Partnership. This initiative works directly with manufacturing employers to determine the skills needed for current open positions. From there, a collaboration is developed to create an employer-driven training program providing workers with specific skills tailored to a company’s needs. Employers commit to hire from the group who successfully complete the training. To date, there have been 12 employer-driven training programs completed for area manufacturers.

Local manufacturer Solaris Inc. makes medical compression garments, and that company has hired 13 individuals through this initiative. Solaris employee Nhy Pease is an example of how the Mayor’s Manufacturing Partnership directly connected an individual with a job. Pease tried for some time to find the right fit with a manufacturing company.

Then, through the HIRE Center/Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board (MAWIB), Pease began a four-month on-the-job training program at Solaris. Even though she already had some of the necessary skills, Solaris needed her to have job-specific training. A year and a half into her new career, she is successfully working for Solaris and was recently promoted. The wages she earns are sufficient to support a family.

The Mayor’s Manufacturing Partnership has upgraded the skills of nearly 500 workers, advancing their manufacturing careers through the Milwaukee Area Technical College Worker Advancement Training Grant. This is the same strategy championed by U.S. employers to grow the workforce, ManpowerGroup found in a national survey.

At the outset of the Mayor’s Manufacturing Partnership, the project partners, City of Milwaukee, MAWIB, Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership (WRTP/BIG STEP) and MATC, set what we thought were ambitious goals of training 150 individuals and connecting 500 more people with employment or career pathways in manufacturing. We already have exceeded that: 178 area employers have either hired newly trained employees, benefited from employees with upgraded skills or have been connected with skilled unemployed individuals, totaling more than 800 workers impacted. There is a need for training funds to continue this momentum. We are off to a great start, but there is more work to be done.

With an aging workforce, employers and the workforce system need to work together to provide a pipeline of qualified workers. This is a critical task. Within a decade, industries that now account for 50% of Wisconsin’s gross domestic product will be looking for 60,000 more skilled workers than are projected to be available. We need to invest now in our workforce to protect our economy.

We are fortunate to have MAWIB, Milwaukee’s coordinating workforce entity, maximizing funds by developing and administering initiatives such as the Mayor’s Manufacturing Partnership and more than twenty other programs to create a skilled workforce. The key to the success of these efforts is a close working relationship with employers.

A prepared workforce is essential for growing companies. At the same time, we have far too many people in our city who are underemployed or unemployed. Making the right connections between employers and employees can set individuals, companies and our entire economy on a course for success.

I am optimistic about Milwaukee’s economic future, and manufacturing will be a big part of that. So let’s celebrate manufacturing this month and in Octobers for decades to come.



From “Employers, educators discuss student preparation for work” — By Hillary Gavan - Representatives from business and education joined together to discuss new ways to get students trained for the workforce at the 7th Annual Business Education Summit held Thursday at the Eclipse Center in Beloit.

Sponsored by the Greater Beloit Economic Development Corporation, Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce, School District of Beloit and Beloit College, the day’s theme was “Workforce Development – Are You Ready?”

At the event the 2nd Annual Business/Education Partnership Award for the business sector went to Blackhawk Bank accepted by CEO Rick Bastian. The award for the education sector went to the School District of Beloit, accepted by Superintendent Steve McNeal.

Beloit City Manager Larry Arft and McNeal welcomed crowds, and McNeal said it was a blessing to have forward thinking people to move the school district ahead.

McNeal noted there is non-referendum money being put into the Beloit Memorial High School’s new Technical Education Programming Space demonstrating the district’s commitment to getting kids into jobs. The School District of Beloit and City of Beloit, he said, are undergoing joint efforts to train kids for the workforce which rival any in the state.

After the Vice President of ManpowerGroup’s Global Strategic Workforce Consulting Practice Rebekah Kowalkski gave her keynote address, Economic Development Director for the Rock County Development Alliance James Otterstein gave a presentation on Inspire Rock County, a web-based career readiness platform which connects students with businesses and mentors and other resources to investigate careers and apply for jobs.

Susan Dantuma, from Blackhawk Technical College, talked about the college’s youth apprenticeship programs and Bob Borremans, from the Southern Wisconsin Workforce Development, spoke about the Work Today Program where employers in the program pay to have workers trained for job openings at their companies.

Business/Education Partnership Committee Co-Chair Jim Agate said he was pleased with the roundtable discussions which returned this year so educators and the business community could brainstorm together. In the past he said takeaways from the discussions included ideas which were implemented such as mock interviews and the lunch and learn program.

Agate said after Thursday’s events new plans would begin forming.

“We will put all our notes together and move forward,” he said.

Business/Education Partnership Committee Co-Chair Rick Barder said all of those on the Business/Education Partnership Committee put together a program and agenda that was relevant in today’s world with many takeaways for both the businesses and the education community.

Beloit City Manager Larry Arft said the event was a unique opportunity for educators and business as well as government leaders in the community to interact and to share perspectives regarding the needs of public education.

From “Amerequip donates $10,000 to tech college” – KIEL — Amerequip, a manufacturer of custom equipment for the lawn, landscape, agricultural and construction markets, has donated $10,000 to Moraine Park Technical College Foundation’s Manufacturing Fund.

The fund is aimed at strengthening the appeal of manufacturing-related careers by offering manufacturing programs that reduce the transition time from degree to workforce, while providing manufacturers with direct access to students enrolled in those fields. It focuses on recruitment, retention and workforce readiness; offering students financial assistance as well as incentives to complete their degrees with performance based rewards.

Amerequip provides design and engineering services, along with production and manufacturing, of custom equipment for international and national customers in a variety of industries. The firm operates four Wisconsin facilities, with more than 155 employees.


From “Walker names Council on Workforce Investment” – Gov. Scott Walker has named the new membership of the Council on Workforce Investment, a federally mandated panel that will advise Walker and the Department of Workforce Development on the allocation of federal workforce development funds.

The council will be responsible for approving the Workforce Investment Act plan each state is required to create each year. It coordinates the efforts of Wisconsin’s 12 regional workforce investment boards.

“As we look to target substantial investments to develop the workforce and help Wisconsinites successfully pursue family-supporting careers and find true independence, the Council on Workforce Investment will provide valuable input with representatives from business, education, legislative and other key groups,” Walker said.  “My administration’s continued focus on creating jobs will guide the work of the Council as we look to address the skills gap and fill employers’ current and future labor market needs.”

Mary Isbister, president of General Metalworks Corporation in Mequon, will serve as chair of the council. She has experience service on the boards of several organizations, including the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and was formerly the vice chair of the Council on Workforce Investment.

Mike Laszkiewicz, vice president and general manager of Power Controls at Rockwell Automation, will be vice chair. He is currently the chair of the national Manufacturing Council, which advises the secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce on manufacturing issues.

Reggie Newson, secretary of the DWD, will serve as executive director.

The other members are:

  • David Brukardt, associate vice president for economic development, University of Wisconsin System, Madison
  • Alan Petelinsek, president and CEO, Power Test Inc., Sussex
  • County Executive Allen Buechel, Fond du Lac County
  • Rep. Warren Petryk, Wisconsin State Assembly, 93rd District
  • Jeffrey Clark, president and CEO, Waukesha Metal Products, Sussex
  • Dawn Pratt, human resources and EEO officer, Payne & Dolan, Fitchburg
  • Morna Foy, president, Wisconsin Technical College System, Madison
  • Mark Reihl, executive director, Wisconsin State Council of Carpenters, Madison
  • Sarit Singhal, president and CEO, Superior Support Resources Inc., Milwaukee
  • Grailing Jones, director of owner/operator small business development, Schneider Finance Inc., Green Bay
  • Howard Teeter, president and managing partner, Anteco Pharma LLC, Lodi
  • Theresa Jones, vice president of diversity and inclusion strategies, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, Brookfield
  • Sen. Tom Tiffany, Wisconsin State Senate, 12th District
  • Sen. Julie Lassa, Wisconsin State Senate, 24th District
  • Rep. Robin Vos, Wisconsin State Assembly, 63rd District
  • County Executive Daniel Vrakas, Waukesha County
  • Terrance McGowan, president, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139, Milwaukee
  • Brian White, president, General Electric-Waukesha Gas Engines, Waukesha
  • Dan Mella, principal, Plymouth High School, Plymouth
  • Wyman Winston, executive director, Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, Madison
  • David Mitchell, president/COO, Monarch Corp., Milwaukee
  • Rep. Josh Zepnick, Wisconsin State Assembly, 9th District
  • Alan “Kent” Olson, president, Olson Tire and Auto Services Inc., Wausau


From “Dual-credit program benefits students” – Tuesday was a dual-credit day at technical colleges across the state as they promote the kind of program four-year universities have long used.

Schools like Fox Valley Technical College in Grand Chute highlighted programs to help high school students earn college credits.

The initiative is meant to foster better partnerships between tech schools and high schools.

“I’m still trying to wrap my mind around how I’m only 19 years old but yet things are really starting to come together,” said Fox Valley Technical College student Ryan Geiger.

Geiger graduated from Brillion High School and was hired as a machinist by the Ariens Company. He says thanks to dual-credit courses, he’s working on two different degrees.

“I was really surprised how you can be a machinist and have the mindset you do and love what you do and being paid what you are. It’s just awesome.”

FVTC officials say Geiger is just one example of what educators hope becomes a trend of successful students taking dual-credit courses and filling in-demand jobs.

“It’s going to give them an opportunity to get an understanding of whether or not they would like to pursue this as their main field,” said Fox Valley Technical College Dean of Technologies Steve Straub.

The dual-credit classes are also free to high school students, meaning they are getting more specialized training and paying less for it.

“I really feel like we needed to be more aggressive in helping our students get one foot into post-secondary education,” said Appleton West High School Principal Greg Hartjes.

To do that, Appleton West hopes to start a machine technology charter school in the fall of 2014. Students could earn 24 credits toward a degree at Fox Valley Tech.

“These are high need areas that the community has said we don’t have enough employees, we don’t have enough people going into these areas and that is what we are trying to fill,” said Hartjes.

“I just love doing technology stuff, I just knew that’s what I always wanted to be,” said Geiger.

Providing students an open door to a bright future.

The number of high school students throughout the state taking college credits in high school has doubled in the last five years.

Fox Valley Tech says 21,000 Wisconsin students have an average of at least six college credits before graduating high school.

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From “Prison inmates taught job skills in new program” – A group of 10 women inmates at Taycheedah Correctional Institution, near Fond du Lac, are learning basic manufacturing skills in a new program designed to help them find jobs when they’re released and earn college credits for finishing the class.

The training also has been launched at state prisons in Oshkosh and Kettle Moraine, where inmates spend six weeks learning skills such as machine maintenance and blueprint reading.

The programs are from Lakeshore Technical College, the state Department of Corrections, and the state Department of Workforce Development, said Jim Golembeski, executive director of the Bay Area Workforce Development Board.

Corrections spent $100,000 to get a 25% ownership stake in one of the mobile laboratories used to provide the training, and it’s considering buying another mobile lab it will own outright.

Taycheedah inmates are in their third week of training, which is held every day, about seven hours a day, for six weeks.

“During the day, they get a break for lunch and that’s about it,” said Rich Hoerth, a Lakeshore Technical College dean who oversees the program.

The training starts with the basics of quality control and safety, and then moves into other areas including machine maintenance and repair, machine operation, computer controls and blueprint reading.

The lessons were developed based on the needs of manufacturers, some of whom are clamoring for skilled labor.

Nationwide, thousands of manufacturing jobs cannot be filled because of the growing skills gap and because the jobs have become technically more demanding, according to employers.

Wisconsin will have fewer than half of the metal manufacturing professionals it needs by 2021, according to a report from Manpower Group. Demand for these skilled tradespeople will grow by nearly 50%, but the supply will decrease about 12% as the industry gets slapped by a wave of retirements.

Much of the inmate training focuses on math skills, including the ability to take precise measurements. There also are lessons in using hand tools and understanding mechanical fasteners, shafts, couplers, gears, pulleys, bearings, levers, cranks, cams and springs.

Inmates are allowed out of their cells several nights a week for math tutoring, Golembeski said.

There’s a hands-on assessment at the end of the course that tests an inmate’s ability to troubleshoot and repair a machine in a given amount of time. All of the Oshkosh inmates who completed the training passed the test.

The mobile laboratory could be used for training at high schools, and the assessment test could be used outside of the prison system.

It’s too early to say whether the inmate program is a success, based on whether people find manufacturing jobs when they’re released from prison or continue their training at a technical college.

But having some mechanical knowledge will be useful, Golembeski said.

“Those six college credits are going to be helpful, too. In some cases, these women will be the first in their immediate families to earn any college credits. We are hoping they will continue their education when they’re released.”

Taycheedah has had other job-skills programs, including one that trained inmates to be dental technicians in jobs that paid about $40,000 a year in Milwaukee County, according to Department of Workforce Development figures.

But someone with a felony drug conviction would have trouble getting a job in the health care field, Golembeski said.

“If you have a conviction for theft or bad checks, you’re also not going to get a job in the financial field, or even in retail, where you would be handling money and credit cards,” he said.

“Manufacturing is a place where your felony conviction, for the most part, isn’t going to stand in the way of getting a job that’s in high demand and has a high wage. If you have the skills and keep your act together, there are a lot of opportunities.”

On April 15, Golembeski said, he and some women from area manufacturing companies will be at Taycheedah to meet with the inmates in the training program, including several of them from Milwaukee.

From “Column: Career, tech education a real-world way to learn” – Career and technical education is a cooperative effort between technical colleges and employers. Students receive instruction and training in the classroom and also with local employers through internships, externships and clinical rotations. These real-world skills and experiences help graduates be better prepared to enter or re-enter the world of work.

Mid-State Technical College offers certificates, technical diplomas and associate degrees in more than 100 areas.

MSTC graduates enjoy careers in many industries and service areas in all of our communities. Some examples include law enforcement and corrections officers, surgical technologists, manufacturing and electronic technicians, welders, registered nurses, automotive technicians, accountants, cosmetologists, urban foresters, business managers, supervisors, marketing professionals, computer programmers, medical assistants, respiratory therapists and much more. As we look around at the businesses and industries in our community, it is easy to see the impact of career and technical education.

A technical college education is the training that is sought after and needed by employers in the 21st century. In fact, 93 percent of employers are satisfied or very satisfied with the education and training and would hire technical college graduates again.

The preparation provided at a technical college includes the necessary academic and technical skills to be highly productive employees in their field of choice.

The required technical skills are changing each and every year; many of these skills were unheard of a generation ago. We work with employers in our communities to stay abreast of changes and advances in technology so that these new tools and skills are incorporated into our programs.

In addition to offering programs of study to meet the workforce needs of tomorrow, technical colleges are well suited to offer just-in-time training and training aimed at upgrading employees’ skills.

Mid-State Technical College is your community’s college. Turn to us when you are ready to develop employee training or enter a program of study to earn your associate degree or technical diploma. MSTC’s Marshfield Campus is at 2600 W.Fifth St. in Marshfield. You may reach us at 715-387-2538 or visit our website at Let us know how we can be of service to you.

Brenda Dillenburg is dean of the Mid-State Technical College campus in Marshfield.

From “Scott Walker signs bill providing $15 million in work force training grants” – Madison - The state will distribute $15 million in worker training grants under a bill Gov. Scott Walker signed into law on Wednesday.

The measure will also create a system to better and more quickly track jobs data in an attempt to guide workers to in-demand professions. The jobs database is scheduled to be in place by next year.

The measure has broad bipartisan support, passing the Senate unanimously and the Assembly 94-4 in recent weeks. Despite minority Democrats’ support for the bill, they said it fell short and lawmakers should do more to develop workers’ skills.

“We all agree we need to continue to do everything we can to ensure workers have the necessary skills for the jobs available today,” Walker said in a statement. “This bill will help address the skills gap by investing in worker training grants and developing a Labor Market Information System. Altogether, these investments will focus a concerted effort to connect workers with jobs.”

The jobs database and training grants are part of the Republican governor’s platform of improving the skills of the state’s aging labor force and boosting the state’s economy in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. The training plans draw on reports by Competitive Wisconsin and Tim Sullivan, the former Bucyrus International chief executive officer.

Democrats, however, have noted that Walker has proposed far less new money for training workers than the hundreds of millions of dollars that he and GOP lawmakers cut two years ago from the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Technical College System to help balance the state budget.

Walker made those cuts, as well as ones to local governments and school districts, just after approving a measure that all but eliminated collective bargaining for most public workers and required them to pay more for their pensions and health care. He has argued that those savings and the added flexibility offset the cuts, saying the bill he signed Wednesday amounts to new money.

The governor’s proposed budget would provide additional money for state universities and technical colleges, though the increase would be less than the amount he cut in 2011. Lawmakers will decide this summer whether to keep or alter Walker’s proposal on higher education spending.

The competitive grants available under the new law would go to technical colleges, local workforce boards and regional economic development organizations working in partnership with state businesses, which could provide matching funds.


From “Education fair to promote technical jobs” – GRAND RAPIDS — For Scott Stanczyk, losing his job at the Whiting paper mill when the facility closed its doors in 2010 provided the incentive he needed to pursue a new career path.

Now in his last semester of the renewable thermal energy technician program at Mid-State Technical College, Stanczyk said his love for the outdoors and the environment gave him the opportunity to reinvent himself.

“The economy was terrible when they first shut the doors, and the job outlook was pretty tough, so I needed to do something,” he said. “I was glad to have the opportunity to take this course and have some support from our government as a dislocated worker. It’s been a great experience here at Mid-State.”

It’s experiences like Stanczyk’s that workforce development leaders hope to share with a new generation of students in a world of changing perceptions about the relevance and role of the technical and industrial sector. It’s for that reason that Mid-State Technical College is hosting its second annual Technical and Industrial Education Fair from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. today at its Wisconsin Rapids campus.

“This is a great opportunity to explore technical educational and apprenticeship programs that lead to great careers with excellent pay,” said Gary Kilgas, associate dean for the college’s Technical and Industrial Division, which is organizing the event.

Designed to benefit high school students seeking to advance their education, individuals looking to expand their skill set or retrain for a new career, as well as parents and friends, the event will provide them with an opportunity to tour facilities and engage in a variety of individual technical program demonstrations, according to an MSTC news release.

There are opportunities in south Wood County for people who want to work in fields such as industrial mechanics, instrumentation and controls, engineering technology and welding, said Rick Merdan, a manufacturing facilitator for Workforce Central, a grassroots initiative to help match local employers with the skilled workers they need.

“All of those are very high-demand fields, with people in very good positions, very good jobs coming out of those programs,” Merdan said.

A key part of promoting jobs in the technical and industrial sectors is to change what have become outdated perceptions, especially with an expected increase in the number of such jobs available due to looming retirements, said Bruce Trimble, employer services director for the North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board.

“The perception (of technical jobs) has been dumb, dirty and dark, but they’re anything but that,” Trimble said. “If you go into a welding shop, the air is just like if you would walk into an office building.

“It’s about getting people to realize what’s needed and what those actual jobs are like and that those positions pay very good, family-sustaining entry-level wages.”

At Corenso North America, for example, the core board manufacturer has had a couple positions open for a while that company officials have not been able to fill, President Tom Janke said.

“There’s really an immediate need in some areas,” said Janke, who also serves as board chairman for the Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce. “This isn’t something that’s necessarily three, four, five, seven years down the road; there’s opportunities for it right now.”

Janke also encouraged those who are thinking about getting into a technical field to seek out the many opportunities available right in south Wood County.

“You don’t have to relocate,” he said. “You don’t have to go to a large city; there are opportunities right here.”

From “Chippewa County Businesses Receive Economic Development Recognition” – Winners of the Wisconsin Economic Development Association (WEDA) 2013 Biennial Economic Development Awards have been selected—two of the award recipients were Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation (CCEDC) nominees. CCEDC nominated the Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) and Progressive Rail (PR) who will receive their awards during the Governor’s Conference on Economic Development.

The CVTC, recognized for the 2013 WEDA Biennial Organization Award was nominated by CCEDC for their outstanding employer-employee based programs, technical certificate programs serving employers, workforce development, associate degree programs and high school programs.  CCEDC believes the CVTC has strengthened the Chippewa Valley workforce and enhances the region for economic development. CVTC offers excellent academics, strong occupational training, small class sizes, and dedicated instructors providing Chippewa Valley students with high-quality education and training opportunities.

“Chippewa Valley Technical College takes its role in economic development very seriously, and we continue to work hard to help local companies by meeting their needs with highly trained workers in a variety of fields”, state Bruce Barker, CVTC President. “Economic development is best approached as a partnership, and we are proud to partner with business and industry and other agencies to forward the economic health of west central Wisconsin. We would like to thank WEDA for this recognition of our efforts.”

PR received the 2013 WEDA Biennial Company Award.  CCEDC nominated PR for this award because of their transportation infrastructure improvements, support of existing and new industrial development initiatives thus eliminating congestion and inefficiencies and improving safety on the PR lines in Western Wisconsin.  PR’s recently completed an addition of two-new passing tracks to its main line in Chippewa County signifies an over $5 million investment of private sector funds.  The addition of these passing lanes has increased capacity to the entire rail network giving railcars operational feasibility and could be considered an industrial development incubator attracting more business and talent to the area.

“Perhaps the greatest mark of achievement in Progressive Rail’s track record is seen by the existing and new businesses that have elected to invest on our line which brings with that their commitment, careers, commerce and community involvement to Chippewa County and State of Wisconsin. I see railroads as America’s best economic development incubator and Progressive Rail is proud to be part of this investment”, stated Progressive Rails Owner and President Dave Fellon.  “We are honored to be the recipient of the WEDA economic development award and are appreciative to the CCEDC and WEDA for recognizing our efforts.”

“It is always great when Chippewa County businesses such as CVTC and PR are recognized by a group that represents economic development for the entire State of Wisconsin” stated CCEDC President/CEO Charlie Walker. “The roles both CVTC and PR play are diverse and needed for successful economic development; I look forward to strengthening the partnership with these economic development team players as we work to expand the Wisconsin workforce and economic base.”

In 1985, WEDA established the Biennial Awards program with the purpose of recognizing exceptional contributions to the economic vitality of Wisconsin through the use of creativity, leadership, effort, investment or other attributes which further broad-based economic development goals and objectives within the State of Wisconsin.

Dems present jobs proposal

February 11, 2013

From “Sen. Chris Larson talks jobs proposal, legislative agenda” – Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson (D, Milwaukee) and the Democrats unveiled an expansive jobs proposal last week made up of nine initiatives.

Among the proposal’s plans are giving small businesses grants up front to get started rather than tax credits down the road, requiring Wisconsin to buy American products when it comes to infrastructure and a new grant program to fund workforce development partnerships between businesses and technical colleges.

“If we restore funding to technical colleges that was cut and we’re able to close the skills gap that we have, that’s 35-thousand jobs,” Larson said on a visit to La Crosse Tuesday. “With the buy American and prioritize Wisconsin initiatives, as well as the one putting grants up front as opposed to tax credits, those would take more time to come through.”

“But all in all we’re looking at several thousand jobs,” Larson said.

The prioritize Wisconsin initiative requires the state “attempt to purchase at least 20-percent of materials and contractual services from Wisconsin-based businesses.”

“You can make sure there’s a priority given,” Larson said. “When we send money out of state for contracts or supplies, that money’s likely not coming back.”

“But if we incentivize to make sure, even if it means we have to pay a little bit more, that we’re employing Wisconsinites and making sure they have a job, then that money is staying in our state’s economy,” he added.

Larson also called on Senate Republicans to approach job creation with greater urgency.

“We haven’t seen a jobs proposal come through the senate yet, which is why we put these out,” Larson said. “The first thing to pass was a bill settling a political score against the secretary of state.”

“So (Democrats) shrugged our shoulders at that and decided that, if the Republicans aren’t willing to put forth jobs proposals, let’s put some forward and hope the Republicans see them,” he said.

Larson added that, while job creation is his party’s top priority as the new legislative session continues, the Democrats also have other goals.

“We saw largest cut in state history to education in the last budget — $800-million to K-12 education alone,” Larson said. “So we’re looking to see those funds restored. With the Governor touting extra money from those cuts and looking to spend that money, we’d like to see that priority set to make sure all kids have access to a quality education.”

“I also think another priority everyone can agree on is making sure we have more accountability and transparency throughout our government,” Larson said, “particularly in the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation which has seen inherent problems.”

“We’ve seen millions of dollars lost and now we’ve seen least qualified individual on the list of people to be hired getting the reigns to the organization from the Governor,” he said.

Governor Scott Walker announced that Reed Hall, who had served as the WEDC’s CEO on an interim basis, would accept the post full-time earlier this month.

The state paid for a search firm which recommended three finalists to the Governor, but the Governor said all three of those finalists recommended he appoint Hall instead.

View WXOW video


From “University, college funding would be tied to job-readiness efforts” – Madison - To respond to global competition and an aging workforce, Gov. Scott Walker wants to invest nearly $100 million to build a faster system to track jobs data, tie technical school and university funding to filling high-demand professions and require nearly 76,000 people to train for work to collect food stamps.

The sweeping proposals – some of the biggest in worker training in more than a decade – would expand the Medical College of Wisconsin to Green Bay and Wausau and draw in millions of dollars in added federal money toward the goal of equipping the workforce for needed jobs as welders, nurses, accountants, machine operators and rural doctors.

The measures encompass big parts of the Republican governor’s 2013-’15 budget being introduced on Feb. 20, as well as separate legislation to be introduced on Monday.

Many of the proposals will likely find bipartisan support in the Legislature, while others will likely be greeted with dissatisfaction from Democrats pushing for bigger investments from the governor to backfill the cuts he has made in the current budget to the state’s technical colleges and universities.

One potentially contentious plank – and one with big implications for Milwaukee – is Walker’s proposal to require able-bodied adults without dependent children to train or search for work to receive benefits under the state FoodShare program. Providing the training will cost the state $17 million a year and won’t save money directly on the federally funded food benefits.

But in an interview, Walker said he believes the recipients will gain confidence and move into the workforce and off other costly state benefits.

“I want to provide a hand up, not a permanent handout, and I think the idea here is it’s not enough to just say, ‘You should go find a job.’ We’re willing to put our money where our mouth is and say we’ll train you,” Walker said.

The scope of the proposed changes is ambitious, reaching from 4-year-old kindergarten through university study and into training in the workplace. The measure draws on reports by Competitive Wisconsin, former Bucyrus International executive Tim Sullivan and Walker’s Read to Lead Task Force.

More investments in education will likely come in the budget, but likely not be enough to placate Democrats. They’ve stewed about Walker’s higher-education cuts in the current budget, which included some $300 million over two years to the University of Wisconsin System alone.

“Governor Walker made the biggest cuts to education and worker training in our state’s history,” said budget committee member Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse). “It has widened our skills gap and resulted in waiting lists (at technical colleges) of up to three years in some high-demand professions.”

Walker made the UW cuts – as well as ones to local governments and school districts – just after approving a measure that all but eliminated collective bargaining for public workers and required them to pay more for their pensions and health care.

He argued Friday that those savings and the added flexibility offset the cuts, and that to him his proposed spending in the next budget amounts to new money.


The FoodShare proposal would not affect the elderly, disabled or those with minor children. It would limit able-bodied recipients’ benefits to three months over any three-year period unless they are working or doing at least 20 hours per week of job training or searches.

The state will attract federal matching funds for the training costs for a total of $33 million over two years.

The proposal will face skepticism from advocates such as Sherrie Tussler, executive director of Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee. Tussler remembers previous state requirements as creating more jobs for social workers than it did for FoodShare recipients, who she said were taught just basic skills.

“There’s this huge bureaucracy to get people to do the work and make sure they’ve done it. It ends up costing more to mandate the work than the good you get. . . . You’re trying to take away people’s food to get them to get a job,” she said.

Currently, the training element to the program is voluntary, and Tussler said she has struggled to get state funding for a proposal to pay FoodShare participants $10 an hour to work at a farm growing vegetables for the needy. That’s because of tight federal restrictions, she said.

Technical Colleges

The governor is also proposing linking current state funding to technical schools with their performance at placing their more than 78,000 students in the right jobs.

Starting in 2014, Walker wants 10% of the general state aid to technical colleges to be awarded based on job placement and how well the schools do at catering to fields that are in high demand.

That percentage would ramp up in future years, until all state funds would be allocated on a performance basis, starting in 2020.

The technical colleges would see a $5 million boost in general state aid, bringing it to $88.5 million a year. That’s a 5.9% boost in its current funding, but does not come close to replacing all the money Walker cut from technical colleges in 2011.

That year, funding for technical schools dropped by 30%, from $119.3 million to $83.5 million.

The $88.5 million Walker will propose for technical colleges accounts for just a sliver of overall funding for those schools, which also receive property taxes, tuition and federal aid.

UW System

For state universities, Walker is proposing awarding $20 million for programs that help the economy, develop a skilled workforce and make higher education more affordable.

He also plans to give $2 million to the UW System to start up its flexible degree program – about two-thirds of the $3 million the system had requested.

The program is meant to allow people already in the workforce to get degrees in programs such as nursing, information systems or medical imaging more quickly by getting credits for knowledge they already have, whether they learned it on a job site or through online courses.

Walker’s budget would also require the university and technical college systems to establish a core set of 30 college credits that can be transferred between all public institutions in the state.

Private colleges would have a chance to opt into that system.

In a provision that could rankle GOP lawmakers, Walker wants to allow the UW-Madison chancellor to determine the pay plan for employees without going through the Legislature.

Similarly, the UW Board of Regents would be able to set pay for other campuses without getting sign-off from lawmakers – flexibility that UW System President Kevin Reilly said was essential to closing a pay gap with salaries at other institutions.

“Over time, if we can’t give our people hope we’ll be able to close that 18 percentage point gap, people who are mobile and attractive to other universities will leave,” Reilly said. “The biggest threat to students of the future is that they will not be taught by the best and brightest.”

Health care

Walker’s budget would also seek to increase the number of doctors and dentists in Wisconsin, particularly in rural areas.

It would:

  • Provide $7.4 million in bonding so the Medical College of Wisconsin could establish campuses in the Green Bay and Wausau areas. In addition, the college would receive $1.75 million over two years to add 12 more family medicine residents.
  • Give $3 million over two years to the UW School of Medicine so it can expand training for doctors who will serve rural areas and inner cities.
  • Provide $4 million for rural hospitals so they can receive national accreditation and take on medical residents, along with $1 million in grants to hospitals so they can take more doctors in training.
  • Give $520,000 to the Marquette Dental School so it can expand.
  • Provide $5 million to the Wisconsin Health Information Organization, which is meant to make health care costs more transparent and make people wiser health care consumers.

Education, other items

Walker’s budget would also expand testing in schools so by the 11th grade teachers can identify and better prepare students who are ready for college or a career when they graduate.

The testing would cost $11.5 million over two years and would be covered by the state. The proposal would also screen the reading readiness of students in 4-year-old kindergarten and first grade in the fall of 2013. The following year, screening would also be used for second-graders. The plan would cost $2.8 million over two years.

Starting in sixth grade, students could develop an academic and career plan, under Walker’s budget. The plan would be updated throughout a student’s school career so he or she can graduate from high school with a job plan. Schools would receive about $1.1 million starting in the fall of 2014.

The second set of Walker’s proposed workforce changes will be stand-alone legislation that will be introduced on Monday, said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester). He said he hoped to pass the measure by the end of March.

That bill would cost $20 million over two years and would:

  • Spend $15 million over two years in grants to organizations that train workers.
  • The competitive grants would go to technical colleges, local workforce boards and regional economic development organizations working in partnership with state businesses, which could provide matching funds.
  • Create a four-person state Office of Skills Development to coordinate the scattered worker-training systems of the state and adapt them to the needs of employers.
  • Spend roughly $5 million to develop a system to better track the state’s labor market by some time in 2014.

If successful, it would more quickly deliver to students, guidance counselors and businesses data from the state’s unemployment system that currently takes six months to become public.

The system would link jobless workers to openings they are qualified to fill and provide students and guidance counselors with better information about career opportunities. If successful in getting the unemployed back to work even a week sooner, the system could save the state tens of millions of dollars.

Walker, who has struggled to meet his pledge to create 250,000 private-sector jobs in his first term, said the system wasn’t an attempt to gloss over the current figures, just deliver the same data more quickly.

From “Democrats say Gov. Walker is interested in their jobs ideas” – MADISON — Senate and Assembly Democrats are trying to get ahead of the game on job creation in an attempt to make themselves more relevant this legislative session.

“Representative Barca and I have had two meetings already with the Governor, and we’ve talked about some of our initiatives and some of the things that we want to see,” said Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee), the Senate Minority Leader.

One of those initiatives is a competitive grant training program.

That allows businesses or economic development agencies to partner with local technical colleges to develop projects that focus on increasing skills in high employment areas.

The best ideas get the grants.

“These are jobs that are advertised, if only they had the training. So we believe we need to focus on workforce training,” said Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), the Assembly Minority Leader.

Another proposal would allow out-of-state investors to receive refundable tax credits for supporting high-tech start-ups and entrepreneurs.  Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) said expanding those credits beyond Wisconsin’s borders will only boost the economic growth they’ve already created.

“For $11 million in tax credits, those funds leveraged in Wisconsin a total financing of $152 million for our entrepreneurs and small businesses in our state,” said Sen. Lassa.

But Rep. Fred Clark (D-Sauk City) says existing small businesses also need financial help.  That’s why he is proposing an up-front tax credit which would help a business owner secure a loan for expansion or equipment.

He said many current small business tax credits for things like that go unused.

“I worked with a business owner who actually could have benefited from a provision that we passed in 2009, giving a tax credit for purchase of harvesting equipment in forestry.  What the owner said to me was, ‘what good is it if nobody will borrow me the money to operate the thing,’” said Rep. Clark.

The Governor’s office confirmed that they are looking at the Democratic proposals, and say they will discuss them further after the full budget is released on February 20th.

Video from

From “Summit addresses skills gap, new ways to prepare students” – Representatives from business and education discussed how to better prepare students for the workforce through improved curriculum and partnerships at the second annual Business Education Summit held Friday at Blackhawk Technical College (BTC).

The event featured updates on the latest efforts to close the skills gap.

BTC Vice President of Learning Sharon Kennedy kicked off the morning with an overview of what’s been accomplished in the past year in terms of better preparing students for employment. She said employers surveyed on what they wanted last year had reported a long list of soft skills from new employees that were sorely missing. The skills ranged from interview skills to being on time.

After getting the employer input, Kennedy wrote a letter to the different college units to determine if such soft skills were being taught and learned that about 50 percent of classes were not teaching the skills.

The soft skills reported in demand from employers have been streamlined to include the ability to communicate professionally, use appropriate technology, work effectively in teams, demonstrate professional work behavior, show respect for diversity, solve problems efficiently and lead by example. Those core abilities are being incorporated into all departments including highly technical fields.

The soft skills now have been incorporated into all classes at BTC. For example, welding classes have adopted a strict attendance policy to re-enforce the importance of showing up to work on time. There also have been math instructors embedded in welding curriculum to help students apply math and use it in blueprints.

Kennedy said BTC also has adopted a new assessment to test students on their written and oral communication skills, and Kennedy noted plans are under way for a Career and Professional Development Center. BTC continues to partner with area business people with more than 300 partners who meet regularly with BTC advisory committees.

During the Summit, Stateline Career and Technical Education Academy (SCTEA) Director Heidi Carvin, a retired Evansville Superintendent, gave an update on the progress of the partnership.

SCTEA, a not-for-profit collaborative partnership, was formed to give students real life skills to improve prospects for future employment. The idea is that the students would learn technical skills taught by industry professionals. Organizers had hoped that students would be entered into career pathways as dictated by regional business requirements.

In the Stateline Area those areas included manufacturing, business and finance, construction, healthcare, hospitality, pre-engineering and automotive and transportation. The following school districts are affiliated with the regional program: Beloit, Beloit Turner, Clinton, Evansville, Janesville and Parkview.

There have been four active Centers of Excellence through the consortium — the automotive program in Beloit, construction program in Janesville, along with health and welding classes offered at BTC.

On Friday, Carvin said transportation had been a challenge for students who preferred to stay at their own schools as opposed to going to the Centers of Excellence.

SCTEA’s new focus is to work on aligning curriculum to the career pipeline. SCTEA is focusing on getting more science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes at area schools. Carvin said SCTEA meets regularly with the participating schools to work on incorporating more STEM courses, as well as extra math courses.

Another new focus is on getting more career guidance and relevant courses to middle schoolers. There are efforts underway to give eighth graders more information on different career opportunities and the necessary courses to take in high school to reach their career goals.


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