TUE AM News: DWD leader highlights groups targeted with employment initiatives; WEDC touting new livability rankings

— The head of the state DWD says focusing on potential workers in Wisconsin is a “much better solution” to workforce challenges than attracting those from outside the state. 

Speaking yesterday to WisconsinEye, Department of Workforce Development Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek highlighted four groups of state residents the agency is targeting with various employment initiatives. 

These include individuals with disabilities, “justice-involved” individuals such as the formerly incarcerated, military veterans and “underskilled” residents that may lack certain skills needed to compete for jobs. 

“We know because this quantity shortage is all around us, this idea that, you know, there’s 50,000 workers just over the border in Illinois who’ve got nothing to do is a fallacy,” she said. “Although we want to attract workers, we think the much better solution is to focus on the workers here to help them overcome those barriers.” 

Pechacek noted one in 10 adults has a disability. She said when provided with an accomodation, some form of adaptive technology or on-the-job coaching, these individuals “will be some of the best employees an employer will ever have.”  

She also touted the agency’s approach to getting those who are currently incarcerated ready to rejoin the workforce upon release. She said the state Department of Corrections releases between 6,000 and 9,000 people from correctional facilities into Wisconsin communities each year. 

“We know the best antidote to recidivism is a well-paying, stable job,” she said, adding DWD has installed job centers at 10 different DOC facilities with programs for welding, electronic machining, cosmetology and many other occupations. She noted participants can interview for positions before they’re even released. 

Meanwhile, she said the agency is working with employers to ensure they’re “vet-ready,” with a welcoming environment, support groups and accommodations for veterans with disabilities. She added military veterans have a higher unemployment rate than the general population, and the agency aims to help address that gap.  

And she discussed DWD’s efforts to connect “underskilled” residents with training, certification programs, apprenticeships and internships to help them secure employment. 

Watch the full interview: https://wiseye.org/2022/07/25/newsmakers-wisconsin-workforce-updates-from-dwd-secretary-designee-amy-pechacek/ 

— WEDC is touting new rankings that place six Wisconsin cities among the top 100 best places to live in the country. 

Madison has now been ranked the best place to live in the country by Livability.com for two years in a row. The website highlights the city’s “resilient economy,” outdoor summer concert scene, hundred of miles of trails for biking and other activities as particularly attractive for residents. 

Meanwhile, Waukesha was ranked 12th, Appleton was 39th, Green Bay was 74th, Eau Claire was 78th and La Crosse was 89th. Livability.com’s rankings include analytics on housing, infrastructure, demographics, education, health care and other metrics. 

“From our natural resources to our thriving culture of innovation and entrepreneurship to the people who call our state home, Wisconsin is being recognized as a great place to live, work, and raise a family,” Gov. Tony Evers said in the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. release. 

WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes highlights the agency’s Community Development Investment Grant program, Main Street Bounceback program and Workforce Innovation Grant program. She says that “economic development is also about community building … These investments are paying off.” 

See the release: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2022/wisconsin-economic-development-corp-livability-rankings-put-wisconsin-tops/ 

See the full rankings: https://livability.com/best-places/2022-top-100-best-places-to-live-in-the-us/top-100-2022-madison-wi/ 

— Gov. Tony Evers has announced nearly $17 million in grants for public improvement projects in 18 municipalities around the state. 

A release from the state Department of Administration details the Community Development Block Grant Public Facility grants, going to low- to moderate-income communities with 50,000 residents or fewer. 

Funded projects include upgrades to streets, sidewalks and utility infrastructure, stormwater and wastewater systems, and well installations. Recipients are getting between $626,000 and $1 million each, the release shows. 

“From Blair to Woodville, these projects will help rebuild main streets, prevent flooding, and support family-sustaining jobs,” Evers said in the release. 

See the release: https://www.wispolitics.com/2022/dept-of-administration-gov-evers-announces-award-of-nearly-17-million-of-grants-to-18-wisconsin-municipalities-for-public-improvement-projects/ 

— A new facility for adults experiencing mental health issues has opened in Menomonie, the Department of Health Services announced.

The Kaleidoscope Center, managed by the Wisconsin Milkweed Alliance, is located in the lower level of Menomonie City Hall. This nonprofit group last year received a $30,000 grant from DHS, a release from the agency shows. 

Staff members at the newly opened peer recovery center are community members who have previously gone through their own mental health challenges. DHS says “positive outcomes from mental health concerns are more likely” when the patient is able to connect with someone who can draw on their own recovery experience. 

Other state-funded mental health peer recovery centers in the state are located in Madison, Adams, Green Bay, La Crosse, West Bend, Milwaukee and Eau Claire. That’s in addition to three facilities that employ a similar approach to substance abuse challenges, located in La Crosse, Manitowoc and Wautoma. 

“We know that for many, the peer-to-peer connection offered at places like Kaleidoscope Center is the key for healing and wellness,” DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake said in the agency’s release. 

See more details: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/news/releases/072522.htm 

— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and more than a dozen other Dem lawmakers have signed onto a letter supporting rules proposed by the FDA that would ban menthol in certain tobacco products. 

In a release, the Madison Dem says that menthol numbs the throat and reduces the harshness of cigarettes and flavored cigars, arguing that makes these products more appealing to young people and others starting to smoke. And the release notes these products are “more addictive and harder to quit” and have been directly marketed to minority communities. 

A CDC report found that in 2019, about 85 percent of non-Hispanic Black or African American adult smokers used menthol cigarettes. 

The FDA announced the proposed rules in April and said it would accept public comments through Aug. 2. 

In their letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, the senators are urging the agency to “move promptly” to consider public comments on the rules, finalize and implement them as soon as possible. They say menthol cigarettes were responsible for 10.1 million additional smokers and 378,000 premature deaths in the United States between 1980 and 2018.

Baldwin’s release also highlights a 2011 report from the FDA’s Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee that concluded banning menthol cigarettes would benefit public health. 

See the FDA rules: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-proposes-rules-prohibiting-menthol-cigarettes-and-flavored-cigars-prevent-youth-initiation 

See the DHS release: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/news/releases/072522.htm 

See the letter: https://www.markey.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/letter_from_senators_-_fda_comment_on_menthol_proposed_rules.pdf 

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<i>See these and other press releases: 

https://www.wisbusiness.com/press-releases/ </i>

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