DWD logo

Tony Evers, Governor
Caleb Frostman, Secretary

Department of Workforce Development
Secretary's Office

201 E. Washington Avenue
P.O. Box 7946
Madison, WI 53707-7946
Telephone: (608) 266-3131
Fax: (608) 266-1784
Email: sec@dwd.wisconsin.gov

Monday, November 4, 2019
CONTACT: DWD Communications, 608-266-2722
On the Web: http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/news/
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WIWorkforce
On Twitter: @WIWorkforce

October Takeaways - Manufacturing, National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month

A Guest Column by Caleb Frostman; Secretary-designee, Department of Workforce Development

October was a big month at the Department of Workforce Development (DWD). We recognized Manufacturing Month by celebrating one of our state's most impactful industries, which provides nearly a half million jobs and almost 20% of our state's GDP. Across Wisconsin, we handed out proclamations, lauded effective training programs, toured high-tech and high-performance facilities, and touted the importance of the manufacturing sector to our state's near- and long-term economic wellbeing. The days of "dark, dingy, and dangerous" describing manufacturing are long gone, and we were happy to help trumpet the value and appeal of manufacturing in Wisconsin.

Fortunately, for our state's economic stability and competitiveness, manufacturing is here to stay and DWD remains committed to enhancing the training infrastructure to ensure family-sustaining careers in manufacturing for generations to come.

We also celebrated National Disability Employment Awareness Month, or NDEAM. DWD is proud that one of its six divisions, Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), is entirely dedicated to improving employment outcomes for Wisconsinites with disabilities. If you ask the DVR team, their goals are to help persons with disabilities get a job, keep a job, or get a better job. And they are incredibly effective at achieving those goals. Home to a variety of programs that engage and support employers and disabled workers and job seekers, DVR is on the front lines helping expand Wisconsin's workforce and improve economic outcomes for thousands of disabled Wisconsin workers.

Throughout October, I visited businesses across the state celebrating their commitment to employing individuals with disabilities. In recognition of their efforts to create a Wisconsin workforce that works for all of us, Governor Tony Evers issued NDEAM Exemplary Employer awards to 26 proud Wisconsin businesses that work closely with DVR. These businesses provide accommodations and resources for DVR consumers throughout their employment journeys, and in return, secure dedicated employees who are eager to contribute, enhancing their workplaces and the entire state's workforce.

As we travel Wisconsin to hear from all economic stakeholders, including manufacturing employers, the tight labor market is a common topic. No matter the industry or the region, employers are struggling to find the quantity of workers with the necessary skills to expand their businesses. Many of the employers that are experiencing success in attracting and retaining top talent are doing so, at least in part, by casting a wider net for potential employees, very much including Wisconsinites with diverse abilities. Whether it's utilizing DWD's Business Service Consultants to make their workplace more accommodating, hosting internship opportunities through Project SEARCH, or specifically recruiting applicants with disabilities, Wisconsin employers are finding immense value and return on investment by expanding their candidate pool and hiring Wisconsinites with disabilities.

I'm grateful that the Evers Administration is joined by many quality employers who agree that striving for a workforce inclusive of those with disabilities not only helps address our workforce shortage, but also makes good business sense regardless of economic conditions. From small businesses and franchises in Southeast Wisconsin to manufacturers in North Central Wisconsin and everywhere in between, taking an inclusive approach to workforce recruitment is good for a business's bottom line, disabled Wisconsinites' economic independence, and the economic vitality of our state's economy at every juncture of the economic cycle. We are appreciative of employers recognizing the value of casting a wider net in their workforce recruitment efforts and DWD will continue its work to widen and strengthen that net for all Wisconsin workers and employers.