In Rhinelander, Evers announces ‘Workforce Solutions’ initiatives
By Eileen Persike
RHINELANDER – Governor Tony Evers was in the Northwoods Wednesday, July 14 to tout his plans to spend $130 million on programs to help address the state’s post-pandemic workforce needs.
The three programs announced will be funded with federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars and include $100 million for a Workforce Innovation grant program, $20 million toward a Worker Advancement Initiative and $10 million for a Worker Connection Program.
Touring Nicolet College in Rhinelander, Evers learned about some of the school’s programs. Tech colleges like Nicolet, he said, are uniquely suited for collaborations in their communities.
“The Department of Workforce Development (DWD), Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the Department of Administration will combine forces and expertise to offer $10 million grants to at least 10 local and regional collaborations,” Evers said, adding that they are looking for “proposals that represent innovation, data-driven planning and that leverage existing infrastructures to connect the dots for post-pandemic workforce solutions.”
WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes said the programs reflect what she has heard from employers around the state.
“This initiative is really about bringing local community groups together to collaborate together to understand what are the unique problems in our region, in our locality and how can we work together to solve them,” Hughes said.
Whether it’s childcare, transportation, housing – the groups will be “looking for the local groups to come to us and say, ‘this is our priority, this is the thing that will unlock solutions in many different ways,” Hughes added.
The $20 million Worker Advancement program is expected to help those whose previous work has not come back after the pandemic, as well as those who were not successful in the labor market prior to the pandemic.
“It will offer wage subsidies to local businesses to hire and train people in the job skills needed for long term sustainable employment,” said DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek. “The program will serve individuals who will most benefit from a continuum of services to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and better engage in post-pandemic recovery offering more flexible eligibility than what exists in the current programs.”
The $10 million Worker Connection program will provide career coaches who will connect with job seekers looking to reengage in the workforce, as well as workers looking to expand their employment opportunities.
Evers said it will be easier to disperse funds for some parts of the workforce solutions grant programs than others. The innovation grants, for example, could take a while.
“That’s going to take some time for us to figure out the grading criteria for those proposals, and it’s going to take a lot of time, frankly, for those organizations that want to take this on – they are going to have to find partners,” Evers said. “We insist on collaboration, we insist on a regional approach. In order for that to happen it’s going to take a lot of time, so I expect that money out the door sometime in the fall.”
The Governor said the state is bouncing back, “but we can’t take our foot off the gas now, and these investments that I’m talking about will help get people back to work, help their families and communities.”