Despite low unemployment, employers continue to struggle to find enough workers with the right skill set. Given our state’s demographics trends, this challenge is unlikely to be resolved in the near future. The WMC agenda on workforce will ensure our homegrown talent pipeline has the skills necessary for the jobs available in Wisconsin. At the same time, we support the state continuing its efforts to convince workers from outside of Wisconsin to move here with their families for career opportunities. Wisconsin has much to offer to workers and their families willing to move to the Badger State.
One of the biggest issues facing employers is the lack of workers. Wisconsin must continue to tell our story and market the opportunities that exist here for workers and families through a continued and sustained marketing campaign in the Midwest, along with other similar regions of the country. We must reinstate a comprehensive, state level talent attraction program marketing Wisconsin to departing service military personnel, UW graduates, and individuals in high cost states.
The state has been collaborating with employers to upskill current employees for new and upcoming job opportunities. These efforts, such as the Wisconsin Fast Forward program, should continue and be improved upon to be reactive to the ever-changing needs of employers. Intertwined with this is the Labor Market Information System, which aims to better connect employers and job seekers based on skills. This should be continued in order to better connect workers with available jobs in real time.
Wisconsin is facing a worker shortage crisis. Immigration is one necessary piece of the workforce puzzle that needs to be solved. Although not a state issue, the business community believes we need smart and practical immigration reform that begins with securing our border, but also allows ample opportunities for the best and brightest who want to come to our country to work and be productive.
WMC successfully worked in recent years to make Wisconsin the 25th right-to-work state. We also supported the passage of other key employment law provisions, such as restricting local governments from enacting costly HR mandates on employers. Unfortunately efforts are underway in Madison and Washington, D.C. to undue those vital reforms. We oppose any efforts to repeal right-to-work and the other key employment law reforms enacted in Wisconsin in recent years.
Enforce current law that requires able-bodied adults without dependents who are collecting FoodShare benefits to be working, actively searching for work, or participating in work training programs. We should also restrict Medicaid benefits for individuals who refuse employment in order to stay under the income limits for Medicaid. These two reforms will encourage more people into the workforce and allow them to experience the dignity of work.
Access to childcare is sometimes a barrier for individuals to enter or return to the workforce. Employers should be leaders and work with their employees to provide benefits to help with the shortage of childcare. The state can help incentivize this by providing tax credits for employers that provide childcare for employees’ children either through the establishment of a childcare center or by purchasing daycare slots for their employees.
Registered Apprenticeships started in Wisconsin in 1911, and provide real on-the-job training for employees while meeting the workforce needs of employers. While historically used primarily for construction, manufacturing and service sector jobs, in recent years Wisconsin expanded the program into healthcare and information technology. We should continue to expand the training model into new industries and encourage more employers to utilize the apprenticeship model. We should also expand the eligible expenses for reimbursement under the apprenticeship program in order to open this option to more workers.
Despite strong efforts in this area in recent years, too many students still do not have access to tech education and work-based learning in high school. They are instead pushed toward college and low-demand four-year degrees, to the exclusion of other options. School districts should better educate students and parents of all career options, including entering careers in manufacturing, construction and other skilled trades, and by increasing access to technical education coursework, followed by work-based learning through apprenticeships and internships. Connecting students to these pathways through career counselors, ensuring the public knows how schools are performing through the school report cards, and linking new school funding to these efforts are ways to ensure accountability and success.
Create a program for employers that would provide a tax credit for employing an enrolled student from an institution of higher education or a secondary school to be an intern at their business.
Current inmates are required to be returned to their county of origin after their release from prison. We should reform this requirement to allow individuals to be placed in a different county where they have established employment through a work-release program.
If you would like to learn more about our stance on education reform or have questions, contact Rachel Ver Velde, WMC’s Senior Director of Workforce, Education and Employment Policy.
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