LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Whether you call it a skills gap or simply the changing economy, local and federal government officials are starting to spend more money on the issue of unemployment.
President Obama recently signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The goal is to train Americans with the skills employers need and then match them to good jobs that need to be filled right away. Officials plan to do this by working with local businesses to create federally funded training programs and holding the organizations accountable.
Following the same lead, local government officials are providing funding to colleges to help cut down on waiting lists for high-demand jobs.
Local labor market analyst Bill Brockmiller said training workers for a specific job is a work in progress.
"Let's say you have a batch of people that need some updating on their skills, so you update their skills and get them into the job market, by the time that churns, there is a new batch of people that in a lot of cases need their skills updated," said Brockmiller.
It seems like a never-ending cycle, but a new grant from the state of Wisconsin to Western Technical College of La Crosse is hoping to speed up the process and get even more skilled workers into the workforce.
"One hundred and ninety-two people will have a chance at additional training," said Lee Rasch, president of Western Technical College.
Western is set to receive $1.5 million in Wisconsin Fast Forward Grant dollars. It's part of the $28 million Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker set aside for his Blueprint for Prosperity Initiative.
"These will be new students, they will either be on waiting lists or in some cases they will be individuals who applied in the past but are now coming back because they now have an opportunity," said Rasch.
The grant money will be used to train individuals in certain fields where jobs are most abundant by providing more classes in targeted fields.
"We are finding good-paying jobs are opening up in manufacturing," said Rasch.
"We are certainly hearing that welders is one job that comes to mind pretty quick," said Brockmiller.
The medical field is also looking for some new hires.
"Gundersen Health System contacted us and they were looking for another 40-45 medical assistants.... this is actually going to allow us to have the capacity to provide that number," said Rasch.
It's no secret the economy is getting better, experts say jobs are opening up, but now it's time to fill those high-demand jobs sooner rather than later.
Western is only one of 16 technical colleges throughout the state receiving the grant. In total, the colleges will be able to accommodate almost 5,000 more students in training programs.
The $1.5 million dollar grant given to Western Technical College is good for up to two years.
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