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Scott Walker, Governor
Raymond Allen, 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

Tuesday, January 24, 2017
CONTACT: DWD Communications, 608-266-2722
On the Web: http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/news/
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WIWorkforce
On Twitter: @WIWorkforce

Workforce, Workforce, Workforce

A Guest Column by Secretary Ray Allen, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development

"In fact our biggest challenge is not creating jobs, but finding people to fill them. We went from a focus on jobs, jobs, jobs, to talking about workforce, workforce, workforce. That will be my top priority for 2017 and beyond."
- Governor Scott Walker

As Governor Walker noted in his State of the State Address earlier this month, Wisconsin's economy is strong and growing. According to the most recent federal data, more people were employed in Wisconsin in 2016 than at any point in the history of the state. In December, unemployment dropped to 4 percent, its lowest point since January 2001 and the labor force participation rate (or the percentage of people working) in Wisconsin has consistently been among the highest of any state in the country.

As the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, I am responsible for carrying out the Governor's agenda to develop Wisconsin's talent and, ultimately, helping to grow the economy. I agree with the Governor that our biggest challenge right now is finding people to fill the jobs that are being created and available. Currently, there are over 80,000 job postings on our JobCenterofWisconsin.com website, a free resource that connects talent with opportunity 24 hours a day.

It was an honor, and a true testament to the excellent work of our agency and our workforce partners, to hear Governor Walker recognize some of our Wisconsin Fast Forward (WFF) grant trainees during his State of the State Address. The Governor's signature worker training grant program – and its expansion under the Blueprint for Prosperity initiative – has improved the lives of working families across the state. To date, nearly 200 projects have been awarded over $18 million in funds to train 18,000 new and incumbent workers across Wisconsin.

Governor Walker has made it a priority to reach our students early in school, so that they can make informed choices about the right career path for them. In his speech, he also highlighted four students who are part of our Youth Apprenticeship program. Since 2012, funding for this model program has more than doubled, from $1.6 million to $3.2 million this last school year. Enrollment for the 2015‐16 school year reached a 10-year high with 3,044 youth from 271 school districts working at 2,151 businesses. In the same year, 83 percent of participating youth completed the program and received a state skill certificate. As of November 2016, 78 percent of two-year Youth Apprenticeship graduates were offered continued employment by the employer that provided their on‐the‐job training.

The Governor also highlighted what we are doing to assist job seekers with disabilities find quality work. Over the first two years after Governor Walker's A Better Bottom Line initiative, DWD's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) helped approximately 9,500 individuals with disabilities reach their employment goals. We are also participating in Project SEARCH, a national training program for young adults with disabilities that, under Governor Walker's leadership, expanded from two employer sites to an expected 27 sites by the next school year. The program has demonstrated great success with 88 percent of the graduating class in 2015 gainfully employed.

As demonstrated by these and many other results, working families across the state are winning thanks to Governor Walker's commitment to building and strengthening the workforce. Now, with an even greater emphasis on rewarding work and helping more Wisconsinites move off government dependence and thrive in family-supporting careers, we look forward to even more success stories in the months and years to come.