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Down but not out: How the Dislocated Worker Program helped one Wisconsin mom launch a new career

June 2, 2021

"I'm sorry, this is not working out and we're going to have to let you go." The words hit Stacy like a bucket of ice water. She was suddenly unemployed—with a one-year old son to feed and support.

Stacy VanWormer had been working at a home water treatment business in Baraboo for less than a year as a customer service and office clerk, and the news of being let go terrified her. As she drove home that day, confusion, disappointment, and uncertainty weighed heavily.

"I've always been a hard-working employee and being let go less than a year working there made me feel like a failure," VanWormer said. "It still haunts me to this day."

Determined to pick herself back up, Stacy enrolled in a job training program paid for by the federally funded Dislocated Worker Program through the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) via what is now the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA).

Through the Dislocated Worker Program, which is designed to help eligible individuals connect with economically self-sufficient employment as quickly as possible, Stacy picked up new IT skills, learning about computer drives, file storage , and intermediate-level use of the most popular Microsoft Office Suite programs (i.e., Outlook, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, and Word). Job center staff helped her develop an individual employment plan, which included identifying employment goals and providing career, training, and supportive services to help her attain those goals.

Stacy VanWormer with her son, James, in 2020
Stacy VanWormer with her son, James, in 2020

"One of the key [programs] I learned that enabled me to secure employment was Microsoft Access," VanWormer said. "When I applied for my job as a License/Permit Program Associate at the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, I completed an additional in-house test on the Access database. Because I was fresh out of the Access class through the Dislocated Worker Program, I was the only applicant who successfully passed that test, thanks to DWD!"

The four-month training program gave Stacy more than just technical skills, it gave her security for herself and her son, James. She took back her future with a sense of pride, gratitude, and hope.

Stacy is one of thousands of Wisconsinites who have taken advantage of workforce development programs made possible by DWD and local workforce development boards.

"DWD opened the door for me that led to the staircase of my career." VanWormer explained. "If it was not for DWD, I may have never had the opportunity to get to where I am today. DWD gave me a pretty big opportunity!"

Stacy is now working as a Senior Information Systems Business Intelligence Analyst, specializing in reporting tools within STAR at the Department of Administration.

"When I was let go back in 2005, I was at a very low point and was vulnerable and at-risk. The training I received took me to new heights—to a place of confidence and success," said VanWormer. "The training had a profound and positive impact on me, and it is reflected every day in the work that I do. I now proudly serve the citizens of our state and all the agencies across Wisconsin state government."

Stacy encourages people who are looking for new job opportunities to take advantage of the resources provided by DWD and its local workforce partners.

"A handout helps for a moment, but a hand up helps for a lifetime."