The bill calls for $15 million in worker training grants, which the Department of Workforce Development will administer for an additional $5 million. Walker and legislators praised their work on jobs, and although Democrats overwhelmingly supported the bill, they said $15 million is not enough.
The bill is part of Walker’s efforts to close the skills gap in the state, and it includes an online system that would accurately track the jobs available.
“The state that leads the way in closing the skills gap will also lead the way in job creation,” Walker said in a statement. “This bill is the next step in our efforts to ensure workers have the skills they need to fill the family-supporting jobs available now and in the future. I applaud state lawmakers and their bipartisan support to help move Wisconsin forward.”
The bill passed unanimously in committees and in the Senate, and got a 94-4 vote in the Assembly last week.
Last week, Assembly Democrats proposed a number of amendments that were not approved. Among them was having the state’s technical college system, not DWD, manage the grants, as they already manage similar grants. Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said last week, the bill created a “double bureaucracy.”
Democrats had also wanted to require a legislative audit for the new program, and start the program off with two new DWD staffers, instead of four.
“I would hope we would learn the lessons of the past and don’t just create slush funds and shovel money in agencies and say, ‘Do whatever you want to do,’” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said last week. “That is not a prudent use of our taxpayer money.”
Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, said in a statement although Democrats supported the bill, more money was needed to make up the cuts technical colleges took two years ago. He said it was “refreshing” to see Republicans supporting putting some of the money back.
The legislation was much needed and would help Wisconsin workers, DWD Secretary Reggie Newson said in a statement.
“The availability of flexible and customized training solutions, in addition to cutting-edge and real-time labor market information, will help us identify and respond to emerging industry needs, empower Wisconsinites to access good-paying jobs and move Wisconsin’s economy forward,” Newson said.
Newson, as well as Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, praised Sen. Rick Gudex, R-Fond du Lac, for being among those who spearheaded the bill.
Gudex said at the Senate’s session he is “proud” of having worked on a bill that helps Wisconsin employees and employers. He called the bill a “solid marriage” between DWD, technical colleges and private sector employers.
“What this bill does do and it does care about is workers who are searching for employment,” Gudex said. “It cares for employers who are looking for employees … It provides training where the training is needed. Hopefully in the future, we can expand on this bill.”