bay area workforce development

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD), announced $20 million in grant awards to 11 regions in Wisconsin to help more than 2,300 Wisconsinites as part of the Worker Advancement Initiative.

The initiative, announced earlier this year and funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), will serve Wisconsinites whose previous employment has not come back since the pandemic.

DWD will administer the program through local workforce development boards in partnership with community-based organizations to provide subsidized employment and skills training opportunities to participants, including a focus on those who will be co-enrolled in Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs. 

“This $20 million investment will allow us to effectuate change at a local level that will help people most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic," said DWD Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek. 

Clients served will benefit from a continuum of services, including: paid work experience opportunities to develop and/or enhance job skills (wage subsidies); hard and soft-skill training on occupational skills connected to in-demand jobs along with critical work-based skills; on-the-job training opportunities that will lead to economic self-sufficiency; and supportive services to address related barriers to employment, which may include assistance for childcare, housing, transportation, and worker stipends. 

DWD received a proposal submission for the Worker Advancement Initiative grants from each of the 11 boards. The grant awards will be conducted during a two-year grant cycle and include New North agencies:

Fox Valley Workforce Development Board (FVWDB) – Waupaca, Outagamie, Waushara, Winnebago, Calumet, Green Lake, and Fond Du Lac counties: DWD awarded $1,085,001 in grant funding to serve 100 participants.

FVWDB will launch The Dream Academy to serve anyone who is out of work or working reduced hours due to COVID. This will include laid off individuals, as well as those who quit jobs due to dependent care or health concerns during the pandemic, or who have been unable to return to the traditional workforce due to long-haul COVID effects.

A significant focus will be on mental health challenges related to the pandemic and will include an investment in mental health counseling. FVWDB will increase diversity by focusing on underserved racial/ethnic groups, the LGBTQ population, justice-involved individuals, non-custodial parents, and individuals with disabilities.

Individuals in The Dream Academy will receive an interest assessment, a series of sessions with a trained counselor to help identify barriers to employment, opportunities to interview local employers, a one-month Workplace Essentials soft skills training aligned with targeted industries (manufacturing, IT, logistics, etc.), transitional job placement, and post-job follow-up activities.

Bay Area Workforce Development Board (BAWDB) – Florence, Marinette, Oconto, Menominee, Shawano, Brown, Kewaunee, Door, Manitowoc, and Sheboygan counties: DWD awarded $1,613,436 in grant funding to serve 160 participants.

BAWDB will connect grant participants with employment opportunities in locally identified driver industries. Targeted grant participants will include underrepresented racial/ethnic populations, justice-involved individuals, and long-term unemployed.

BAWDB will use grant funds to hire a Worker Advancement/ Community Engagement and Program Coordinator to conduct outreach and coordinate referrals for the grant. Participants will receive employment/job placement services through a local staffing agency to provide work experience and will also have access to training opportunities in high-demand skills/occupations, including digital literacy education.