Skilled training will get a significant boost in Wisconsin if leaders are able to pass their proposed agenda for the fall legislative session. In a major announcement last week from Gov. Scott Walker (R), Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) and Senate Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R), eight bills were introduced that will invest $8.5 million in state funding and $14 million in federal matching dollars toward improving access to technical education.
This ambitious legislative agenda will build upon the $100 million Wisconsin already has invested in workforce development through programs like the Wisconsin Fast Forward Initiative. The programs announced on Sept. 25 will focus on improving access to apprenticeship programs and providing incentives for career and technical education (CTE).
Recognizing the high demand for workers in apprenticeable trades, the Wisconsin Assembly will add further funding to the state’s Youth Apprenticeship program, which Walker has touted as a huge success.
“Last year, nearly 1,900 apprentices at 1,300 employers were trained. The program touched 210 school districts and 81 percent of the program graduates received job offers with the employer who provided the training.”
Much like the successful apprenticeship tax credit in South Carolina, the legislative agenda calls for a reimbursement for students or employers who participate in apprenticeship.
CTE also will be receiving a greater investment. In a program based on the highly effective CTE reimbursement passed by the Kansas Legislature in 2012, the Wisconsin Assembly will introduce a bill to provide $1,000 per pupil in technical education incentive grants. These incentive grants will go to eligible school districts that put students on the path to earning industry-recognized credentials in high-demand occupations.
One of the bills in the new legislative package will expand the current Academic Excellence Higher Education Scholarship to include new funds high-performing CTE students can apply to Wisconsin’s post-secondary technical schools. According to Walker’s office, this is an area with huge opportunities for growth.
“The current Academic Excellence Higher Education Scholarship rewards students who are the top of their class with a state scholarship. This program is a great incentive for students to succeed in the classroom; however, very few students use the scholarship to pursue a technical education. In the 2012-13 academic year, only 16 of 726 first-year scholars used their award to attend a state technical school.”
In addition, this ambitious legislative package includes licensing reform to help applicants get tested, trained and working more quickly, as well as bills to help low-income and unemployed workers transition into better careers and vocational programs aimed at those with special needs.
Read more about Wisconsin’s workforce development agenda here.