Wisconsin workforce strategy: Advancing synergies to meet needs of Wisconsin entrepreneurs and emerging high tech sector


By Secretary Manny Perez

Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development


Looking to the future, the Wisconsin Technology Council makes a case for bold action to improve the business climate, provide entrepreneurs more access to capital, and ensure a skilled workforce to meet the needs of employers in a global market. As a member of Governor Walker’s Cabinet and Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development, I welcome your collaboration in advancing Governor Walker’s bold plans for economic growth and job creation.


On his first day in office, Governor Walker moved swiftly to improve the business climate. He declared Wisconsin open for business, then took action, calling a special legislative session that resulted in tax incentives and regulatory reform. With these initial steps, we have already seen the economy improve, the demand for labor increase, and thousands of jobs open throughout the state.


In my first months as DWD Secretary, I have been traveling the state seeking to empower our regional partners and enlisting other stakeholders in developing workforce strategies that are pro-active. Recently, I had the privilege of addressing a number of you at a Wisconsin Technology Council Board of Directors meeting. As I did then, I encourage you to contact your regional workforce development boards and join in developing their employment and training strategies. This is your opportunity to help us correctly align training programs, motivate individuals and set Wisconsin on course for economic growth.


As our economy expands, one sector driving the recovery is manufacturing. While we are making solid gains and remain a leading manufacturing state, no one expects Wisconsin to return to the days when manufacturing jobs exceeded 600,000. As your “Bold Action” White Paper notes, the job losses in manufacturing were due more to increased productivity than out-sourcing. We are in age of advanced manufacturing and greater efficiency in production. As an example, in visiting manufacturers today, I see an increasing demand for computer numeric control machinists with the skills to operate high-tech equipment.


Whether it’s manufacturing, health care or other sectors, the need for computer savvy workers is universal. We must work together now to develop and align strategies that anticipate private sector labor needs and ensure a well-trained, highly-skilled workforce capable of competing in a rapidly changing global economy.


We are well positioned. Wisconsin already has a distinct advantage in competing with other states. We have a strong work ethic, reflected in a labor participation rate well above the national average.  Wisconsin also has the fourth lowest worker’s compensation average cost per case in the nation, the lowest worker’s compensation premiums in the Midwest, a nationally recognized return to work program, and an effective alternative dispute resolution process. These advantages help Wisconsin companies to stay competitive, which in turn contributes to job creation.


Among our most pressing challenges is this: Nearly two-thirds of all working age adults in Wisconsin have no education and training beyond high school. As boomers retire, vacancies occur, and the economy creates new jobs, a technical college education can be the ticket to a good job and rewarding career. With your help, we can meet the challenge. What is needed is a pro-active approach that gets schools more focused on workforce needs, alerts our youth at an early age to all career options, including high-tech manufacturing, and encourages life-long learning.


Wisconsin’s economic recovery, bolstered through Governor Walker’s pro-jobs agenda, is creating quite a buzz. For weeks now, over 28,000 job openings have been listed on http://www.jobcenterofwisconsin.com/, our free, 24-hour Job Service website. With job opportunities increasing statewide, we must motivate job seekers to redouble their efforts.


On behalf of Governor Walker, I applaud your commitment to advancing Wisconsin’s economy, and I look forward to working with you to help entrepreneurs and all employers create jobs.


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