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WEDA testifies on Assembly Bill 192

Tuesday, May 2, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Michael Welsh
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 Testimony on Assembly Bill 192 before the

Assembly Committee on Workforce development

April 25, 2017


Peter Thillman – Wisconsin Economic Development Association



 Good morning Chairman Petryk and members of the Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today in favor of Assembly Bill 192.


My name is Peter Thillman. I currently serve as the Vice President of Workforce and Economic Development for Lakeshore Technical College. However, I am speaking today in both a personal capacity and as a representative of the Wisconsin Economic Development Association, or WEDA.


WEDA is a statewide association representing roughly 420 public and private sector economic development professionals. We are dedicated to advancing economic prosperity in Wisconsin and providing our members with the necessary tools to encourage business expansion and promote private investment. 


As has been mentioned often in this building and across the state, Wisconsin’s current challenge is not necessarily job creation, but rather finding skilled individuals to fill the available jobs. Closing the state’s skills gap is an absolute must if we want to remain competitive in the global economy and sustain long-term economic growth.


Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet that will solve Wisconisn’s workforce challenges. It will require a comphrehensive approach – including transitional and incumbent worker training reforms; talent recruitment and retention incentives; and employee development programs for in-demand professions.


Progress has certainly been made, and the Legislature should be applauded for its work on critical workforce development policies and programs over the last several years. That includes the 2013 creation of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Incentive Grant program, which helps provide high school students with the necessary skills and training to meet the current and future workforce needs of Wisconsin employers. WEDA is highly supportive of the program, and our members are equally enthusiastic about Assembly Bill 192, which will significantly enhance the CTE Incentive Grant program.


As you know, CTE grants encourage school districts to offer educational programs that allow students to obtain industry-recognized certifications in industries and occupations with workforce shortages. The grant funds are intended to reimburse school districts for costs associated with certification programming. Under current law, school districts are eligible for grants of up to $1,000 for each pupil in the district earning an approved industry-recognized certification. However, the program is capped at $3 million per year – and demand is outstripping supply. As such, school districts are now receiving prorated grant awards. This limits the reach and effectiveness of the program.


Assembly Bill 192 will eliminate the current funding cap on the program – making it sum-sufficient – and ensure school districts receive full grant awards moving forward. As a result, the bill will strengthen support for technical education in Wisconsin high schools and help more students graduate with the skills Wisconsin employers need in today’s job market.                                    


As the economy has evolved over the past few decades, so too has the outlook of employers and students on secondary and postsecondary education – and how it should prepare students for success in the workforce. This has led to the expanded use of industry-recognized certifications, which have become increasingly important in today’s labor market and among students who are demanding new educational opportunities from their schools. The CTE Incentive Grant program – and AB 192 – recognize this fact and will help Wisconsin develop a homegrown talent pool.


It’s also important to note that industry-recognized certifications illustrate to employers that a specific area or region of the state has a skilled labor force and a supply of potential employees who have demonstrated needed skills. Thanks to programs like the Career and Technical Education Incentive Grant, communities across Wisconsin can and will be able to tout their skilled local workforce to attract new businesses and encourage existing business to stay and expand.


In closing, I would like to reiterate the Wisconsin Economic Development Association’s support for AB 192. I would also request the Committee’s support for this important legislation. Again, I appreciate the opportunity to testify, and I would be more than happy to answer any questions.


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