State Representatives Steve Doyle (D-Onalaska) and Lee Nerison (R-Westby) applauded the passage June 12 of Assembly Bill 226, which updates the Workforce Advancement Training (WAT) grant program administered by the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) to help support job training, business productivity, and Wisconsin’s competitiveness in the global marketplace.
“This bipartisan legislation happened because Rep. Nerison and I talked with business leaders in Western Wisconsin to figure out ways to create jobs,” Doyle said. “Businesses wanted to utilize the successful WAT grant program but they faced some roadblocks because our laws identify specific eligibility for this money.”
Currently, a business with 100 or fewer employees or less than $10 million in gross annual income in its most recent fiscal year is eligible for a WAT grant. The Doyle/Nerison bill expands employer eligibility for small businesses with up to 250 employees and includes market expansion or business diversification as eligible activities.
“This is a perfect example of how government can be, and needs to be, more responsive to the changing needs of Wisconsin’s businesses,” said Nerison. “Investing in our skilled workforce will help keep Wisconsin competitive in a global economy.”
In 2012-2013, $3.9 million in grants were awarded through a competitive process to train more than 11,000 Wisconsin workers. Technical colleges worked in partnership with businesses to identify worker training needs and to provide this training “at cost” with no overhead or administrative costs.
“Helping companies operate efficiently and investing in worker training are not partisan issues,” said Doyle. “Madison politics can get pretty heated, but I applaud Rep. Nerison for working with both political parties on this important bipartisan job training legislation.”
This legislation will be considered next by the State Senate. Doyle and Nerison look forward to the bill being signed into law by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.