As the Legislature continues its focus on encouraging job creation and economic development, one of our priorities is to improve job training programs and boost public-private partnerships to develop workers’ skill sets. As technology advances and industries evolve, ongoing worker training is vital to ensuring our state has a highly-skilled workforce that effectively competes for jobs and investments with other states and around the world.
State Legislators and the Governor are working together on a fall legislative agenda that is built around a package of bills seeking to advance job training and workforce development in Wisconsin. Several of these initiatives were announced this week and build upon the Legislature’s actions this year in improving skills training programs, expanding access to investment capital, and reducing regulatory red tape.
With a focus on in-demand jobs, the package includes creating a scholarship program for high school students that excel in technical education classes and encouraging school districts to develop programs for students to obtain certificates in high-demand industries before graduating. In an effort to get skilled graduates into the job market, another proposal will allow technical college and university students to take state licensing exams before finishing their training, allowing them to receive their license upon completion of their coursework. Other bills seek to create a transitional jobs program to help workers build job skills and to leverage federal funding for vocational rehabilitation services for those with disabilities.
I will be introducing two proposals included in this package seeking to spur apprenticeship opportunities through private-public partnerships. The first bill would provide additional funding for the Youth Apprenticeship program, which matches high school students with employers to provide on-the-job training and technical college-level instruction. Our state’s Youth Apprenticeship program has proven to be successful and is a nationally recognized model of how to develop technical skills in our youth. Four out of five students that participate in the program receive job offers from the employer that provided the on-the-job training.
The second bill would create a tuition reimbursement program for those participating in the Wisconsin Apprenticeship program. This program also combines on-the-job training with classroom instruction through collaborations between businesses and technical colleges. The average annual earnings of skilled workers that complete apprenticeship programs nearly match those of college graduates. The proposed tuition reimbursement program will provide reimbursement up to 25% of tuition and fee costs with a $1,000 maximum.
I welcome your thoughts and comments on improving Wisconsin’s economy and workforce development programs. Please visit my website at www.harsdorfsenate.com or feel free to call my office at 1-800-862-1092 or 608-266-7745.