State lawmakers are considering spending $15 million over the next two years to close what's known as the job-skills gap. The plan includes creating a new statewide database of available jobs and a grant program to fund training programs to fill those jobs.
The Republican-backed bill seeks to improve on similar programs — already in place in New York and other states — that allows job seekers and employers to connect through a web-based network that lists specific jobs and the skills needed to perform them. Wisconsin Technical College system president Morna Foy told the committee considering the bill the tech colleges can train welders, but the new system would allow them to design courses to train, for example, specialty welders to fill specific jobs that employers are offering.
"The welding that's going on in the ship building industry up in Green bay, or in the heavy metals fabrication industry down in Milwaukee, is different from the precision welding that might be happening in a small fabricating company in northwestern Wisconsin. We need to get down to that more specific information abut what is the job: not just a blank job title."
Foy is convinced that the grant funds available for these new training programs should end up going to the tech colleges, but she says there's also the opportunity to partner with private companies that will be be hiring the trainees. Bill author Senator Rich Gudex of Fond du Lac agrees.
"Let's just say that XYZ company is moving to Milwaukee, and they have a need for 30 welders. What we can do is have the technical college work with that business, so they can apply together. Some of the grant money would go to the tech college to begin some of the training, and some of the money would go to the business to start the in-house training."
Democratic state legislators support the bill, but are asking for stricter accountability measures to track grant funds that go to private companies.