WISCAP Comments on Job & Business Development and Skills Enhancement

September 29, 2017
TO: The Honorable Sen. Patrick Testin & Members of the Senate Committee on Workforce Development, Military Affairs & Senior Issues
The Honorable Rep. Warren Petryk, & Members of the Assembly Committee on Workforce Development

FROM: Brad Paul,
Executive Director, WISCAP
Wally Orzechowski, WISCAP Board President & Executive Director of Southwestern Wisconsin CAP

RE: Skills Enhancement & Job & Business Development Programs

We want to thank the Committee Chairs & Members for accepting our written testimony on two innovative Community Action programs that are successfully strengthening Wisconsin’s workforce – yet are significantly underfunded.

The Skills Enhancement Program helps low-wage workers who are employed at least half-time get the training they need to obtain better paying jobs and reach economic self-sufficiency. Skills helps participants, mainly low-income parents, to overcome educational barriers by providing comprehensive case management, as well as financial assistance with tuition & fees, child care & transportation to attend classes. Funded since 2010 at $250,000 GPR annually the 340 graduates have increased their income by nearly $10,000 a year on average and improved access to employer health care by 400%. Graduates are projected to earn $340,000 more during their working lifetimes.

The Job & Business Development Program is a unique program that helps low-income entrepreneurs become self-employed by starting or expanding small businesses in Wisconsin. Staff assist clients to assess feasibility, develop business, financial & marketing plans and access capital through commercial lenders and agency-operated revolving loan funds. Begun in 1989 during Governor Thompson’s tenure JBD clients have launched over 2,200 new businesses and created over 6,000 new jobs. Originally funded at $250,000/year, the state budget currently provides $200,600 GPR annually.

Despite their remarkable success, both programs are seriously underfunded. The cumulative effects of inflation and fiscal rescissions have eroded the reach of JBD services – now available in less than half the counties. Skills Enhancement serves only about half the state – leaving many regions with unmet needs.

We urge Committee members – as state leaders in workforce development – to work with your colleagues to explore ways to better support and increase access to these transformative self-sufficiency programs. We look forward to working with you!

You may download a PDF copy of WISCAP Comments on Job & Business Development and Skills Enhancement

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