LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – Western Technical College is getting $1.5 million in Wisconsin Fast Forward grant money to get welding and medical assistant students off the wait list and into high-demand jobs faster.
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and DWD Secretary Reggie Newson toured Western Monday and announced the allocation of the grant money.
Kleefisch said Wisconsin has a surplus of manufacturing jobs – but not enough skilled workers to fill them.
"There aren't enough trainers, there aren't enough teachers, there aren't enough areas, capacity in order for all of these students to get the training they want as quickly as they want. What these grant dollars will do is expand that ability,” Kleefisch said.
The money will be used to eliminate waiting lists at technical colleges for those in-demand fields.
At Western alone, this grant is expected to train 168 students in welding and 24 students to be medical assistants.
Western President Lee Rasch said incumbent training is part of what the grant will be used for.
"Employers like Chart and Trane... and others in this area are indicating that their workforce is aging,” Rasch said. “They're expecting retirements. That the need for replacement welders is great."
According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, the governor hopes to train more than 4,900 workers in fields including manufacturing, health care, transportation and construction. About 100 programs at 16 technical colleges across the state will benefit from the grant.
The Department of Workforce Development Wisconsin Fast Forward training program focuses on three components: Encouraging collaboration among high schools, tech colleges and businesses; expanding employment opportunities for workers with disabilities; and reducing the waiting lists at technical colleges for high-demand fields.
Sen. Jennifer Shilling, (D) 22nd District, said in Gov. Walker's tenure, he has actually cut about $70 million dollars from Wisconsin technical colleges, adding the governor could have distributed the Wisconsin Fast Forward grant months ago. Shilling said Walker held onto the money until now for political gain.
A statement from the senator reads in part: “Gov. Walker's announcement today regarding Western Technical College comes at a time when students and families across Wisconsin continue to struggle as a result of his budget cuts and inaction on the student loan debt crisis. Too many students and unemployed workers have suffered as a result of the $70 million that Gov. Walker cut from our technical college schools when he took office -- including millions from western technical college.”
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