DWD logo

Tony Evers, Governor
Amy Pechacek, Secretary-designee

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, September 27, 2021
CONTACT: DWD Communications, 608-266-2722

Op-Ed Column: Celebrating Wisconsin's Innovation in Workforce Development

By: DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek

For more than 110 years, Wisconsin has been a leader in workforce innovation, advancing ideas to cultivate a workforce that remains the envy of the nation.

Today, that powerful cycle of worker productivity, economic growth, job creation and workforce training has contributed to a labor force participation rate that – at 66.5% – is a full 4.8 percentage points higher than the national rate of 61.7 percent.

And our statewide unemployment rate? At 3.9% we're approaching our pre-pandemic levels. The seasonally adjusted numbers from August remain well below the national rate of 5.2%.

When Wisconsin pioneered laws to compensate injured workers and programs to train workers through registered apprenticeship programs back in 1911, and when Wisconsin became the first state to enact unemployment compensation benefits in 1932, our workers gained important recognition for their critical role in a thriving economy.

Today, recognition of the importance of our state's workforce continues through historic investments and service-driven initiatives to nurture talent and build skills that will keep Wisconsin's workforce and employers competitive.

At the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, we are proud to advance this work on many levels – in partnership with businesses, job seekers, labor unions, Workforce Development Boards, technical colleges and our sister state agencies, among others.

The latest investments take several forms; chief among them is Gov. Tony Evers' $130 million Workforce Solutions Initiative. The initiative, paid for with federal COVID-19 relief funds, includes:

In addition, DWD continues to work directly with employers to deliver grants through the Wisconsin Fast Forward program. The program reimburses employers for customized occupational training for those who are unemployed, underemployed, and current employees.

In recent months, I've been privileged to travel the state, visiting companies and leaders involved in cheesemaking, transportation, textiles, biotechnology, agribusiness, health care, manufacturing, labor, education and more. Insights gained from these meetings guide our work at DWD as we continue to innovate in connecting our workforce with available jobs through:

Wisconsin's workforce is a point of pride for our state, underpinning our economic health and community well-being. Through the progress of our partnerships, our workforce development efforts will continue paying dividends for generations to come.