Q and A with Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson

DWD Secretary Reggie Newson

DWD Secretary Reggie Newson

Reggie Newson is the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD).

DWD is charged with building and strengthening Wisconsin’s Workforce with an annual budget of over $450 million, over 1,600 employees and six divisions: Employment and Training, Administrative Services, Equal Rights, Unemployment Insurance, Worker’s Compensation and Vocational Rehabilitation.

Why do you believe in Milwaukee?

Milwaukee holds a special place in my heart. Milwaukee is the city in which I was born and raised.

I received an excellent education from UW-Milwaukee as well as Concordia University.

My wife and I are currently living in Milwaukee and have chosen to raise our son here.

I have experienced quite a bit of what Milwaukee has to offer throughout the years, both personally and professionally, and it continues to impress me with all it brings to the table for the State of Wisconsin.

I believe that with the right amount of investments and buy-in from the community, there is great potential for Milwaukee to be an economic hub for the state.

Milwaukee has a great base of manufacturing companies, and it is a focus of Governor Walker’s as well as myself to make sure we support these existing companies while attracting future development.

For the Department of Workforce Development (DWD), that means fostering a diverse and well-trained workforce that is ready to meet the demands of Milwaukee employers.

DWD believes that the people of Milwaukee are ready and willing to meet these demands, and we intend to give them every tool at our disposal to do so.

What do you like about Milwaukee?

Milwaukee County is flush with culture. Hardly a week goes by in the summer when there is not a festival featuring live music, art showcases, specialty foods, and/or ethnic dress.

The Wisconsin State Fair and Summerfest are two of my favorite events of the year.

I like seeing the friendly and diverse people that make up my home town.

I am proud that Milwaukee has both the economy and the fan base to support two professional sports teams.

I have been a lifelong fan of both the Brewers and the Bucks.

I have always enjoyed going to the games, but now, even more so, I enjoy taking my son with me to watch him experience the same things that I did in my youth.

Milwaukee is a city rich with history.

As I have a degree in commercial real estate from Marquette University, I believe that the architecture alone found throughout Milwaukee is a sight to see, and have a deep appreciation for the value that it brings to the city.

I love visiting the Historic Third Ward which is currently experiencing an economic revitalization that is very promising.

I believe we need to encourage this type of growth and set the groundwork for growth throughout the entire city.

What potential do you see in/for Milwaukee?

As the largest city in Wisconsin, a lot rests on Milwaukee’s shoulders. Wisconsin needs Milwaukee to thrive in order to compete with other states in the Midwest as well as the country.

Along with Governor Walker, I believe that Milwaukee has to potential to be an economic hub for the state.

We need to ensure that Milwaukee is attractive to businesses looking to move in or expand.

One challenge that we have come across however is a skills gap.

Wisconsin employers, including those in Milwaukee, struggle to find workers with the skills needed to fill positions.

With Governor Walker’s vision, DWD has already begun to develop creative and innovative solutions to address this skills gap.

If the community shares our vision and works with us to make these programs successful, the potential for the city is endless.

What is DWD doing specifically to help Milwaukeans?

DWD stands behind Governor Walker’s vision for Milwaukee and urges all workforce partners serving the Milwaukee area to do so as well.

Recognizing the important role that Milwaukee plays in growing our state economy, the Governor has made one of the largest economic development commitments in state history through his Transform Milwaukee initiative.

DWD is partnering with federal agencies, private foundations, the City of Milwaukee, WHEDA, WEDC, DNR and DCF among others in this initiative, which is designed to help rebuild the city’s workforce, manufacturing sector, and transportation network.

As an example of this commitment, $10.7 million in funding from DWD was allocated or awarded to provide job services, training and employment assistance in the Transform Milwaukee area.

Services ranged from employment and training assistance to assistance provided by our Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

The Governor’s vision also includes investing in Milwaukee’s workforce.

In March 2013, Governor Walker signed the Wisconsin Fast Forward (WFF) program into law with the near-unanimous support of the State Legislature.

I am proud to say that Wisconsin Fast Forward is one of the most innovative approaches to addressing the state’s need for skilled workers that I have ever seen.

The program looks at the employer needs at a local level, then provides funding to train the local workforce with the skills to meet those needs.

Not only is it an investment in employers, but it is an investmet in Wisconsin’s people.

The skills they learn and industry-recognized credentials they earn through the training will stay with them as they build their careers, boost their earning potential and support their families, whether they reside in Milwaukee or elsewhere.

Since Governor Walker proposed and the Legislature embraced the worker training grant initiative early last year, more than $6 million in WFF grants have been awarded, funding collaborative efforts to train more than 6,500 workers, many of whom live or work in Milwaukee.

In addition to the $100 million in workforce investments approved as part of the budget, Governor Walker won bipartisan approval in the Legislature for a Wisconsin Fast Forward expansion.

As a result, $35.4 million in additional funds is available for worker training this year as part of his Blueprint for Prosperity initiative.

These funds target key areas, including school-to-work programs as well as resources to reduce wait lists in technical colleges.

Students from Milwaukee Area Technical College and Milwaukee Public Schools will benefit from this investment.