The state will distribute $15 million in worker training grants under a bill Gov. Scott Walker signed into law on Wednesday.
The measure will also create a system to better and more quickly track jobs data in an attempt to guide workers to in-demand professions. The jobs database is scheduled to be in place by next year.
The measure has broad bipartisan support, passing the Senate unanimously and the Assembly 94-4 in recent weeks. Despite minority Democrats' support for the bill, they said it fell short and lawmakers should do more to develop workers' skills.
"We all agree we need to continue to do everything we can to ensure workers have the necessary skills for the jobs available today," Walker said in a statement. "This bill will help address the skills gap by investing in worker training grants and developing a Labor Market Information System. Altogether, these investments will focus a concerted effort to connect workers with jobs."
The jobs database and training grants are part of the Republican governor's platform of improving the skills of the state's aging labor force and boosting the state's economy in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. The training plans draw on reports by Competitive Wisconsin and Tim Sullivan, the former Bucyrus International chief executive officer.
Democrats, however, have noted that Walker has proposed far less new money for training workers than the hundreds of millions of dollars that he and GOP lawmakers cut two years ago from the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Technical College System to help balance the state budget.
Walker made those cuts, as well as ones to local governments and school districts, just after approving a measure that all but eliminated collective bargaining for most public workers and required them to pay more for their pensions and health care. He has argued that those savings and the added flexibility offset the cuts, saying the bill he signed Wednesday amounts to new money.
The governor's proposed budget would provide additional money for state universities and technical colleges, though the increase would be less than the amount he cut in 2011. Lawmakers will decide this summer whether to keep or alter Walker's proposal on higher education spending.
The competitive grants available under the new law would go to technical colleges, local workforce boards and regional economic development organizations working in partnership with state businesses, which could provide matching funds.
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