View Wisconsin Governor Outlines $20 Million Workforce Development Initiative

Reportage from the January 17 MILWAUKEE BIZ TIMES.  The press release can be found on the Governor’s website.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on Wednesday (January 17) announced details of how the state would spend $20 million allocated to workforce development in the special session legislation that cleared the way for Foxconn Technology Group to receive $3 billion in incentives.

Foxconn plans to create 13,000 jobs at a $10 billion LCD panel manufacturing campus in Mount Pleasant. Businesses throughout the state already say they’re having a hard time finding workers as unemployment approaches 3 percent. The governor has also proposed $6.8 million in funding to expand efforts to recruit workers to Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. recently launched the initial phase of those marketing efforts with a campaign aimed at Chicago-area millennials.

The workforce plan – dubbed the Wisconsin Career Creator Plan and developed by the Department of Workforce Development – calls for the expansion of dual enrollment programs, providing scholarships for training and education, additional funding for the Wisconsin Technical College System and an upskilling initiative.

“With a multitude of businesses expanding in Wisconsin and offering outstanding opportunities for our workforce, it’s crucial we help our workers get the skills they need to find rewarding, family-supporting careers,” Walker said in a press release.

The release itself does not mention Foxconn and refers to the legislation as Act 58. The bill set aside $20 million in the 2019-21 budget to support workforce development. It also required the Department of Workforce Development to submit a plan for spending the money to the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee for approval.

Elements of Walker’s workforce plan include:

  • $7 million for training and education scholarships. Funding could be given to companies and then allocated to Wisconsin workers or to potential employees with a need to “upskill” their credentials, according to Walker’s release. Schools in the University of Wisconsin System, Wisconsin Technical College System and Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities would be eligible to participate.
  • $6 million for initiatives aimed at upskilling workers, including the establishment of advanced manufacturing sector centers, middle school youth apprenticeships, mobile job centers, a re-entry training initiative, veterans training programs and transportation.
  • $5 million to expand dual enrollment programs where high school students start college early. The UW, WTCS and WAICU schools would again be eligible to participate.
  • $2 million of flexible funding for the technical college system to “maximize workforce participation by helping to recruit, retain and successfully credential some of the hardest-to-serve populations.”

The governor’s plan does not specify funding amounts for the programs within the upskilling initiative. One of the criticisms of the Foxconn incentive package is that no money was allocated toward public transportation. The initiative calls for the Department of Workforce Development to allocate an unspecified amount money for “a multi-county transportation plan through partnerships with local governments and the Department of Transportation to incentivize coordination of transit services and reduce route gaps.”

The department would also create two advanced manufacturing sector centers “to address the recruitment, training and attraction needs of advanced manufacturing employers.” Walker’s release did not specify where those centers would be located, but directed the department to work with technical colleges, workforce boards and local economic development corporations.

Also included in the upskilling initiative would be funding to help Rockwell Automation and ManpowerGroup expand their 12-week veteran training program to the general population. Foxconn committed to hiring U.S. veterans as part of a partnership with Rockwell.