MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today announced that the Department of Workforce Development (DWD), on behalf of the Wisconsin Manufacturers’ and Commerce, the Wisconsin Technology Council, the Wisconsin Department of Commerce and numerous Wisconsin businesses, submitted a $3 million grant request to the US Department of Labor seeking funds to upgrade the skills of Wisconsin’s workers.
Governor Doyle has contacted Wisconsin’s congressional delegation to garner their support for the grant and to ask for their assistance in securing this funding. "Upgrading the skills of our workforce is directly related to raising our per capita incomes, average wages, educational levels, and our ability to attract, retain, and grow businesses in Wisconsin," said Doyle. "To make any inroads in these challenges, we need to actively seek out every available federal grant opportunity."
The grant program is the H-1B Business-Led Technical Skills Training Grant, and is funded with the fees paid by US businesses to bring in foreign workers for high technology jobs. Over the past two years, over 3,000 Wisconsin firms have requested 8,000 visas for foreign workers. The occupational categories that will be targeted in the grant include information technology, engineering, accounting and business. A large percentage of H-1B visa requests in Wisconsin have been for information technology occupations such as systems engineer, software engineer, and database analysts and have been spread across several industries.
DWD Secretary Roberta Gassman said "This grant would provide Wisconsin workers with the skills they need for better paying jobs and give Wisconsin’s companies the highly skilled labor force they need to remain globally competitive. These funds fit right into Governor Doyle’s plan to ‘Grow Wisconsin,’ to train workers in strategic industry clusters with urgent needs."
The focus of the grant will be to implement the WI Tech Skills project to train Wisconsin workers for high technology jobs. The grant will serve 600 individuals, 350 of whom will be incumbent workers and 250 will be unemployed residents. The grant will be operated as a statewide project with opportunities for businesses from the entire state to access training funds.
Businesses have already been identified in Milwaukee, Fond du Lac, La Crosse, Racine, and Madison for possible receipt of funds. Business partner grantees have committed to providing matching funds of $2.9 million, plus an additional $8.8 million in resources, giving Wisconsin $14.7 million in capacity for training and retraining of high tech workers.