DWD Upgrading Fast Forward Program to Better Meet Employers’ Needs
The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Fast Forward worker training grant program has been a tremendous benefit to Wisconsin businesses – and the overall state economy – since its inception. The program has helped address the critical need to enhance Wisconsin’s skilled workforce.
Despite many of its successes, the Fast Forward program can also be difficult for businesses to navigate. A complicated application process, stringent requirements and certain restrictions have limited the use and potential benefits of the program. WEDA has advocated for common-sense changes to the program over the past few years, and our Government Affairs Team has met on several occasions with the DWD secretary’s office to recommend a number of Fast Forward reforms to help make the program more impactful for participants and the state as a whole.
Not only has the department been open to changes suggested by WEDA and other stakeholders, DWD recently issued the following outline of reforms to the Fast Forward program, some of which will be implemented immediately by the agency, and others that will require revisions to the state’s administrative code:
Simplify the Application Process
- Potential grantees have told us the application process is too complicated.
- We listened and have simplified the language and recued the number of questions on the application where possible.
- We will reduce the turnaround time between application deadline and grant award by at least one week.
Getting Workers Off the Sidelines
- We want to expand the number of businesses and employees that will benefit from the Wisconisn Fast Forward programs.
- To accomplish that, we will create a new Wisconisn Fast Forward grant that targets people that have never been employed or who are chronically unemployed.
- We will include training dollars for soft skills training and support services to help these workers take that first step on the pathway to a meaningful career.
Fund Tuition-Supported Training
- Wisconsin Fast Forward grants currently do not provide for reimbursement of tuition costs for training programs.
- Moving forward, tuition reimbursement will be allowable as part of a larger training program and when it is more economical than other options such as on-site training.
- Wisconsin Fast Forward currently requires that all training be customized.
- To increase flexibility for employers, we will allow for reimbursement of training that has not been previously offered by the employer.
Eliminate $400,000 Grant Limit
- Grantees currently are limited to a maximum of $400,000/year in Fast Forward grants.
- Under revisions currently going through the administrative rule process, grantees will be allowed to exceed that limit by applying by applying for combinations of grants under the standard or expanded Fast Forward programs.
- This change will give grantees more flexibility to partner with other organizations to tap into grant dollars to respond quickly to the changing needs of the Wisconsin workforce.
Increase Reimbursement for Administrative Costs
- Grantees have given us feedback that administering the Wisconisn Fast Forward grants can be time-consuming.
- The maximum reimbursement of administrative costs is currently 5%of total project cost.
- Under revisions currently going through the administrative rule process, we will raise the maximum reimbursement level to 10% of the sum of the grant award and the minimum required match.
WEDA will continue to work with DWD and other stakeholders on additional reforms to the Fast Forward program in an effort to better meet the talent and training needs of Wisconsin businesses.