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Kent Olson OP-ED Invest in the Existing Workforace System

Kent Olson OP-ED Invest in the Existing Workforace System

INVESTMENT IN THE EXISTING WORKFORCE SYSTEM WILL MAXIMIZE RETURNS

Kent OlsonThe North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board (NCWWDB) welcomes Governor Walker’s recent announcement of initiatives proposed to address the skills needs of Wisconsin’s employers, workers and job seekers. With the enactment of these proposals, Wisconsin will be joining the growing ranks of states that have dedicated state resources to use in combination with its existing federal monies to address the workforce development needs of its employers and workers.

The North Central Workforce Board is one of eleven business-led organizations in Wisconsin that provide regional leadership and oversight for the workforce development system. Workforce Development Boards were created through federal legislation specifically to identify area employment needs, develop plans to address those needs, and oversee the acquisition and deployment of resources to address those needs. The NCWWDB is comprised of local businesspeople, elected officials, educators, labor professionals, and community leaders. This on-the-ground, grassroots membership makes workforce boards among the most nimble and responsive organizations capable of meeting the needs of local employers, incumbent workers, and job seekers in the state.

The regional Workforce Development Boards are perfectly positioned to implement the new initiatives in a manner that addresses the Governor’s state-wide priorities. The resources envisioned in the Governor’s proposals will be most efficiently utilized to fill gaps in current service delivery in a manner that will supplement and not duplicate current workforce development initiatives. This collaborative effort will take greatest advantage of the existing workforce development infrastructure.

NCWWDB has been quick to realize that workforce development efforts need to focus on the development and funding
of training projects customized to meet the specific needs of our area employers. Workers need to be trained or
retrained for positions that actually exist in our communities.

NCWWDB has been working collaboratively with the employers to identify current and emerging job opportunities, as
well as working with educational institutions to develop specialized training programs. Hundreds of dislocated workers and other jobseekers are graduating from business-designed programs such as food manufacturing science, production welding, and machine tool.

NCWWDB enrolled over 2,000 individuals into training programs and employment services during 2012; 1,256 of
which were dislocated workers affected by a series of plant closings and layoffs. The North Central region has
experienced a disproportionate share of plant closings and dislocations in the past 18 months. Area dislocation events have affected 3,331 workers since July 1, 2011, and area job centers have seen a dramatic increase in jobseekers served. During the month of January, over 10,000 job seeking individuals in North Central Wisconsin used Job Center of Wisconsin services.

The proposed infusion of state funds into the workforce system is a great start, and we hope we can continue to build on this much-needed investment. We look forward to the legislature enacting and the Governor signing these proposals into law.

NCWWDB serves the North Central Wisconsin region consisting of Adams, Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon,
Oneida, Portage, Vilas, and Wood counties.

Kent Olson, NCWWDB Chairman
Rene Daniels, NCWWDB Executive Director