Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Amy Pechacek announced that DWD is now accepting grant applications from local workforce development boards (WDBs) for the recently unveiled Worker Advancement Initiative.

The Worker Advancement Initiative will serve people whose previous employment has not come back post-pandemic, as well as those who were not attached to or were not successful in the labor market prior to the pandemic, by offering subsidized employment and skills training opportunities with local employers. The program builds on the success of current transitional jobs programs in the state by launching a new, statewide effort to provide subsidized work opportunities to approximately 2,000 individuals. DWD will administer the program through local WDBs in partnership with community-based organizations.

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 so participants can acquire occupational skills connected to ‘in-demand’ jobs along with critical work-based skills needed to succeed;
• On-the-job training opportunities that will lead to economic self-sufficiency (wage subsidies); and
• Supportive services to address related barriers to employment, which may include assistance for childcare, housing, transportation and worker stipends.

The Worker Advancement Initiative is one of three programs introduced by Gov. Evers with a $130 million investment in workforce solutions. All funds will be invested into Wisconsin’s workforce to connect unemployed or underemployed workers with new opportunities while also incentivizing innovative solutions to regional workforce challenges that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

The three programs include:

• $100 million Workforce Innovation grant program to encourage regions and communities to develop leading-edge, long-term solutions to the workforce challenges the state faces in the wake of COVID-19. Guidelines for this program should be released sometime in August.
• $20 million toward the Worker Advancement Initiative, which will offer subsidized employment and skills training opportunities with local employers to unemployed individuals; and
• $10 million for a Worker Connection Program, which will provide workforce career coaches who will connect with individuals attempting to reengage in the workforce post-pandemic.

The Worker Advancement Initiative is the first program to be rolled out. Gov. Evers has committed$20 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds from the U.S. Department of Treasury through the Wisconsin Department of Administration toward the Initiative. This funding will allow DWD to award grants to the WDBs 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 (WIOA) programs. The purpose is to leverage existing resources available through the greater workforce system to connect participant job seekers more effectively to employers and allow them to obtain enhanced case management and training services.

Only Wisconsin WDBs are eligible for funding and this project will be supported, in whole, by a federal award awarded to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development via the Wisconsin Department of Administration by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

DUE DATE: Applications for funding are due to DWD no later than 5:00 p.m. Central Time on Friday, August 13, 2021.

Learn more about the Workforce Solutions Initiative.