Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development: Guest column from Secretary Ray Allen

CONTACT: DWD Communications, 608-266-2722

Wisconsin’s Workforce: Empowering All
By Secretary Ray Allen
Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development

Governor Scott Walker proclaimed October as Disability Employment Awareness Month to recognize an integral part of Wisconsin’s workforce; workers with disabilities. With the most recent monthly data showing the state’s labor participation ranking 7th best in the country, Wisconsin businesses continue to succeed in connecting individuals, and more specifically individuals with disabilities, with gainful and rewarding employment.

At the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD), our Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) helps job seekers with disabilities determine and pursue their employment goals. DVR has assisted over 28,000 individuals with disabilities in successfully reaching these goals over the last seven federal fiscal years since Governor Walker took office. I attend events throughout the state that allow me to meet DVR consumers and it is clear they love their jobs and are appreciative of the independence and success they have found with DVR’s guidance.

DVR continually pursues innovative strategies to assist people with disabilities in obtaining and maintaining employment, including Project SEARCH, a business immersion program which provides employability skills training and work experience to young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since the 2010-11 school year, the program has expanded from a single site to 27 statewide and has provided workforce training to more than 600 individuals with disabilities.

For the last eight months, Wisconsin has maintained an unemployment rate at or under 3 percent. The efforts of our DVR staff have contributed to this success, as they work tirelessly to connect job seekers with disabilities to quality employment – workers who prove time and time again that their many skills and abilities make them an asset both to the businesses that employ them and Wisconsin’s workforce.

Throughout this month, DWD’s Deputy Secretary and Assistant Deputy Secretary have visited over a dozen Wisconsin businesses, in a variety of industries including manufacturing, food service, and healthcare, in celebration of their efforts to hire and retain workers with disabilities. In all, 32 businesses across the state received Exemplary Employer awards signed by Governor Walker during Wisconsin’s Disability Employment Awareness Month, highlighting each business’s outstanding commitment to supporting a diverse and inclusive Wisconsin workforce.

As October ends, let us continue to recognize the positive impact employing talented individuals with disabilities has on Wisconsin’s economy and workforce.