MON AM News: Labor force participation exceeds pre-pandemic levels, report shows; UW-Eau Claire health care workforce effort expected to have wide-ranging impact

— Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate has exceeded pre-pandemic levels, according to a report from a liberal UW-Madison think tank. 

The report from the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, or COWS, shows labor force participation in the state reached 66.4 percent in February 2022, compared to 66.1 percent in February 2020. 

Meanwhile, the state’s labor force hit 3.14 million in February, marking an increase of 40,000 compared to February 2020, the report shows. But at the same time, the state’s overall employment level remains about 77,000 jobs lower than the pre-pandemic total. These figures differ because the labor force number also includes people who are seeking work. 

The report also highlights how certain industries are bouncing back more quickly than others — including some that were hardest-hit by the pandemic. COWS notes the leisure and hospitality industry employment remains 4.2 percent below where it was before the pandemic. But that’s after more than half of the workers in this industry lost their jobs in April 2020, report authors note. 

By comparison, employment in education and health services as well as state and local government all remain more than 5 percent below pre-pandemic, per the report. Manufacturing employment is only 0.1 percent lower than before the pandemic while construction employment has recovered. 

The Department of Workforce Development recently announced the state’s unemployment rate reached 2.9 percent in February, tying the state’s record low from March 2020. 

COWS also argues low-wage workers “need a new ‘normal’” as the state economy continues to recover. Report authors say the low unemployment rate “likely provides workers more leverage” to get higher wages and more work, but they say “stronger public policy” can help sustain these changes. 

“Strong public health, accessible health insurance, and affordable and high-quality care for kids (with decently-paid providers) are ways that the state can help workers stay on the job in the ever-changing context of this global pandemic,” they wrote. 

See the report:

— A new health care workforce effort centered around UW-Eau Claire has the potential to address labor concerns, boost entrepreneurship and improve health outcomes, a panel of experts agreed. 

During a Wisconsin Technology Council event held at the university last week, panelists discussed the possible impact of this initiative, funded by a $9.4 million Workforce Innovation Grant from WEDC. Gov. Tony Evers visited the university in December to announce the three-year award. 

Mike Carney, assistant chancellor for strategic partnerships and program development for UW-Eau Claire, said the grant will help the university and its partners expand existing priorities. That includes educating more educators and care workers, as well as developing new degree programs in areas such as public health and health care management. 

“Mayo [Clinic] already knew — and I think they learned this from the pandemic — that they needed to think about a different way to deliver health care, especially to rural regions,” he said. “And we also knew that we wanted to introduce innovation skills into our students and into the community. This grant kind of helped us tie all of that together.” 

The university is partnering with the Mayo Clinic Health System, regional school districts and social service agencies and the WiSys Technology Corp. on a four-pronged project supported by the grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. 

Pillars of the project include: addressing workforce shortages for nurses, teachers and social workers; developing new degrees and career pathways at the university for “high-demand” health care fields; piloting a care delivery model focused in part on community care coaches; and supporting entrepreneurs and local business owners in the region. 

Rena Hale, a research associate with Mayo Clinic, pointed to opportunities for startups in areas such as telemedicine and other technologies. 

“If we can pair that with amazing innovation, amazing ideas from students here, from faculty here, with the clinicians and even students and researchers alike at Mayo, I think we’re going to come up with some really, really amazing inventions that could really transform practice and transform care,” she said. 

Panelists stressed the potential impact of “care coaches,” who would be trained to help coordinate communications between providers and patients. Dr. Rick Helmers, Mayo Clinic’s regional vice president for northwestern Wisconsin, said these professionals could help improve screening rates and medication regimen adherence. 

“We have shown in some preliminary things we have done that someone like a care coach really is one of the best ways to improve control of hypertension or diabetes or that sort of thing, so that people have other resources they can reach out to … I believe it will reduce health care costs, but more important than that, make health care outcomes better,” he said. 

Watch a video of the event here: 

See more on the workforce initiative here: 

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— Former Foxconn executive Alan Yeung is pushing back at criticism over his new job at UW-Madison’s College of Engineering.

“My first intent had been to serve, to actually pay back to my alma mater that gave me everything I accomplished, and that’s the intent,” Yeung said on WISN’s “UpFront,” which is produced in partnership with

UW-Madison said Yeung will serve as a professor of practice for entrepreneurship. He started his new position Friday.

“It’s always hard when you fight for increased state investment in higher education and then see absurd spending decisions that piss money away,” Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, tweeted about the hire.

Yeung is out with a new book where he documents his time as a Foxconn executive during the height of the Wisconsin project’s negotiations and deal.

“I think there were a lot of people who were behind the scenes working hard to make it happen, and these were patriots,” Yeung said.

The deal with the state has since been renegotiated and scaled back and the company’s initial commitment of 13,000 jobs has dropped to 1,454 by 2025 in its new contract with the state.

“I think everybody would look back and say we aimed very high,” Yeung said. “I think that’s a culture and aspiration of this company, Foxconn. I think we aim very high. We want to do a lot, and we achieved good things. As I said before, if you feel disappointed maybe your time frame is a little bit too short. I think we have a few years ahead of us that many great things will happen.”

See more from the show: 

— DATCP has identified the state’s second case of a strain of avian influenza in a domestic flock in Rock County. 

Highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, is contagious and often fatal for domestic birds. The first case was found last month in a commercial flock in Jefferson County that had nearly 3 million poultry, while the Rock County flock had 22 birds in a backyard setting, the agency website shows. 

Officials are continuing monitoring efforts after detecting the virus in wild birds in Dane, Columbia, Grant, Milwaukee and Polk counties, according to the agency. A release shows HPAI has been found in 31 states. 

See the release: 

See more at the DATCP site: 

— The Department of Safety and Professional Services says it won’t accept applications for certain licenses in early May as it launches a new online system. 

The agency announced it will be transitioning to the LicensE platform to replace paper-based applications for occupational licenses. New initial applications for 72 license types won’t be accepted between April 29 and May 15, a release shows. 

DSPS says this “black-out period is a critical step to ensuring the successful launch” of the platform. Once it launches May 16, initial applicants in those categories will be able to use the new system. The agency says other licenses will be moved to LicensE over time. 

See the release: 


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– State farmers intend to plant record soybean acreage in ’22

– Wisconsin all milk price hits seven-year high at $24.00 Cwt.


– Newest version of Green Bay area’s ‘Life Study’ moves ‘building a diverse community’ to the top of priorities list


– Unemployment rates increase demand for college students

– Q&A: MMSD’s Nichele Smith wants scratch cooking in school lunchrooms

– Alverno president Sr. Andrea Lee to step down this summer


– Masks off: Overture drops mask requirement April 4, vax proof later

– Rock County continues yearlong drought following dry winter


– Wisconsin LGBT Chamber launching entrepreneurship bootcamp with Harley-Davidson


– Avian flu strain confirmed in Wisconsin wild birds

– Anonymous buyer says Ozaukee County nature preserve would be ‘never-ending expense’


– New Milwaukee County facility to provide emergency mental health care

– Leaders tour new Mental Health Emergency Center in Milwaukee


– Madison’s Quiver Quantitative wants to shake up stock trading

– Power Test acquired by Dallas-based private investment firm


– Sen. Baldwin’s office denies claim that Kohl’s ‘enlisted’ her to write letter


– Goodwill sells Greendale campus for $8.2 million


– Here’s why Artstreet made its surprise move from downtown Green Bay to Ashwaubenon’s Ashwaubomay Park


– Parents, coaches lament lack of co-curricular transportation in Madison as equity issue


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

Wisconsin Technology Council: “Road to widespread electric vehicle use is long, but bumps can be smoothed”

USDA: Wisconsin Ag news, dairy products

Dept. of Safety and Professional Services: Announces LicensE launch date and related application blackout period