Gov. Scott Walker announced a $100 million workforce development plan Wednesday to help train workers for available jobs and provide funding for vocational rehabilitation programs.
The job plans from Walker and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, include eight separate bills and would also provide funding for the Wisconsin Technical Colleges System and public schools system.
“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,” Walker said in a statement.
The initiatives in the plan range from an increased investment in a statewide apprenticeship program training program to incentives for high schools’ graduating students with job-ready credentials and assistance for the unemployed who want to transition into new careers.
Multiple legislators from both sides of the aisle contributed bills to Walker’s plan.
Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, and Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, had their bills included in Walker’s package, one of which included services and programs targeted for individuals with special needs throughout the state.
“By investing in services to help people find work and eliminating barriers to employment, we can empower individuals and improve workplace opportunities for thousands of people with disabilities,” Shilling said in a statement.
Another reform proposed in the plan is the reduction of professional licensing wait time by allowing applicants to take their test at the Department of Safety and Professional Services and receive their licenses directly after passing the examination.
However, Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, said the bills do not go far enough to meet the state’s economic needs.
“[The bills] are kind of light weight,” Larson said. “There is a lot more that could be done.”
He added the bills are steps in the right direction but fall short in fulfilling Wisconsin’s need to create jobs.
Larson added he was unsure why Walker wanted to promote job creation and education funding at this point in the legislative session rather than earlier this year.
“The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is a rotating door for Walker’s cronies to have a job and to give away money,” Larson said.
Democrats introduced a package of job bills in February, which included funding for technical colleges and prioritizing the Buy Wisconsin program, an economic development program to encourage citizens to buy Wisconsin-grown or produced food products, Larson said.
Despite his criticisms, Larson said the bills would likely see bipartisan support, and added he hopes Walker and his administration focus on job creation and the economy.
“I hope they don’t get distracted on socially divisive issues on their way to find job creation,” Larson said. “It has taken three years to get this far, as Wisconsin continues to lag behind the nation [in job creation].”
Walker said in a statement his priority remains to grow Wisconsin’s economy and develope the workforce, in addition to a focus on education and government reform.
Walker’s office declined further comment.