Jobs Package to Focus on Labor Shortage

MacIver News Service | September 25, 2013

[Madison, Wisc…] Wisconsin lawmakers hope to improve the state’s jobs numbers by taking on the labor shortage with a series of job training bills the legislature will be debating this fall.

The package, announced on Tuesday, includes 8 bills that all focus on worker training. The MacIver News Service has covered the labor shortage in Wisconsin extensively over the past two years.

The Walker Administration sees solving the labor shortage as key to Governor Scott Walker reaching his goal of creating 250,000 new jobs by the end of his first term in office. The bills will cost $22.5 million all together, including federal funding.

“These bills build on the near $100 million workforce development investment in our budget,” said Governor Walker on Wednesday. “We look forward to working with legislators on these bipartisan bills aimed at getting workers the skills necessary to fill available jobs through apprenticeship and additional funding for workers with special needs.”

That special needs bill is being introduced by Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) and Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point), and increases funding for vocational rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities. It is the most expensive bill in the package, costing $17.8 million over two years; $14 million of that comes from the feds.

Even though the biggest bill in the package was written by Democrats, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) criticized the announcement, calling the entire effort too little, too late.

“They took an assortment of minor bills and proclaimed that they are going to reverse the negative direction they have taken the Wisconsin economy for the last two-and-a-half years,” Barca said in a release on Tuesday.

Other bills in the package would establish technical education grants, licensing reform, apprenticeship financial support, and transistional jobs programs.

On Tuesday, a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia put Wisconsin at number two in the nation for economic growth.

Detailed jobs data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is scheduled to be released on Thursday. It will cover the first three months of this year.