Madison - Secretary Roberta Gassman of the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) today announced the department has already begun work on the initiatives outlined in the Governor’s “Grow Wisconsin” plan which was released today.
“I salute the Governor on this well thought out and comprehensive plan which puts the needs of Wisconsin’s citizens above all else. Since Governor Doyle took office, he has made economic growth and job creation the top priority of his administration. We here at DWD, probably more than at any other state agency, realize the adverse effects that a sluggish economy and a shortage of jobs have on the citizens of the state, from an increased W-2 caseload to an increase in the payment of unemployment benefits and from an increase in the challenges of finding jobs for the disabled to increased requests for training and re-training of dislocated workers. We provide the supports for the individuals who struggle the most during tough economic times. We are excited to begin work on the Governor’s initiatives,” said Secretary Gassman.
Among those initiatives, DWD will direct $1.5 million to targeted job training programs. A portion of these funds will be used to upgrade the skills of existing employees in the manufacturing sector. These funds will be matched to recipients of custom labor training grants from the Department of Commerce to cover total training costs up to $5,000 per employee. Other federal funds will be used to train current and future workers in regions and strategic industry clusters with needs, such as construction, manufacturing and information technology.
In another initiative, DWD has created the Office of Economic Advisors to be lead by DWD’s chief economist, Terry Ludeman. The office has been created from existing DWD resources and includes the reassignment of current DWD staff to the newly created office. Four labor market analysts located throughout the state will become part of the office but will continue to reside in local areas and provide regional information, data and labor market analysis.
The office will coordinate the expertise of economists throughout state agencies to advise the Governor and other executive branch agencies on economic and workforce trends and will produce a regular report, or scorecard, to track progress. The Governor and his new Economic Growth Council will use this scorecard to track Wisconsin’s economic progress.
As part of his effort to increase efficiency within state government, Governor Doyle has asked the Departments of Commerce, Workforce Development, Revenue and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority to form a Cross-Departmental Economic Development Team. This team provides a forum for staff representatives from these agencies to discuss economic development initiatives and programs.
In addition, Governor Doyle has directed DWD to convene a wage council to review the current minimum wage and propose an appropriate increase. The minimum wage is paid to approximately 130,000 Wisconsin workers, two-thirds of who work half-time or more and most are women. The current minimum wage, $5.15 per hour, has not been increased since 1997. The Department’s recommendations will be advanced through the administrative rule process.
The Department of Workforce Development provides training and employment assistance to people looking for work; works with employers to fill job openings; helps the disabled secure employment; links youth with jobs; protects and enforces worker’s rights; administers Wisconsin’s apprenticeship program; pays Unemployment Insurance claims; and, administers Workers Compensation.