As Gov. Scott Walker continues to introduce tax relief and job creation legislation this session, eleven workforce development bills moved a step closer to becoming law.
The Assembly Committee on Economic Development met Friday to pass bills out of committee that would provide funding for job training programs statewide, tuition reimbursement for students in apprenticeship programs and scholarships for high school students entering technical colleges.
Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, a member of the committee, introduced an amendment to a bill that provides additional funding for the Transitional Jobs program, which aims to help low-income adults not eligible for unemployment benefits to gain workforce experience.
The $34 million Transitional Jobs program was created for Milwaukee County through the Department of Children and Families in the 2009-’11 biennium, but the program would spread statewide if the bill passes through the Legislature.
Lassa’s amendment, which was passed by the committee, would require the department to submit a funding request to the Joint Finance Committee, rather than attempting to get funding from the general fund.
According to the department, each job placement costs $7,750, not including child care services given to participants.
“There needs to be certainty in funding from the program,” Lassa said. “[Employers] want to make sure they retain employees by having adequate wages, and we rely on them to be training the next generation of future Wisconsin workers.”
Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, said she was very concerned about funding, despite the fact many employers often take advantage of workers from the program.
Taylor added the program would find additional workers to address flood management issues in Milwaukee.
“We are putting our money where our beliefs are,” Taylor said.
The committee also passed a bill from Walker’s September economic development bills package to provide funding for the state’s vocational rehabilitation program to help individuals with disabilities receive job training and employment assistance.
The author of the bill, Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said in a statement the bill will help eliminate waiting lists for the program’s services with the assistance of additional dollars.
Seven full-time positions at the Department of Workforce Development would also be added to carry out the program, according to the bill.
Beth Swedeen, Board for People with Developmental Disabilities executive director, testified Thursday at a public hearing in favor of the bill because it allows people with disabilities to get involved in the state’s economy.
“Improving integrated community job opportunities enables people with disabilities to contribute to local economies, more fully participate in their local communities, help permanently get out of poverty and reduce overall reliance on public benefits,” Swedeen said.
If the bill becomes law, $1.8 million would fund the program for 2013-’14, with an additional $2 million for 2014-’15.
The committee also passed a bill to allow individual school districts to receive funding to establish career and technical education programs that would allow students to earn certifications for certain occupations post-graduation.
Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan, a sponsor of the bill and committee member, said in a statement the bill was modeled after the Wisconsin Workers Win pilot program, which has seen 166 participants so far.