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Wisconsin's Workforce Development System

Our new research provides an overview of Wisconsin's workforce development system, highlighting the variety of state and federal funding sources used to support programs administered by the State of Wisconsin and the types of services offered. The report is intended to serve as a guide in ongoing efforts to improve the effectiveness of the state’s workforce development system.

Key findings:

  • Workforce development services in Wisconsin are stretched across many state departments, which may create administrative and policymaking challenges. Eight state departments currently administer 38 programs that provide employment and training services in Wisconsin. While many programs offer distinct services for specific populations and are bound by federal regulations, state policymakers may wish to consider whether structural improvements can be pursued.
  • Funding for Wisconsin’s workforce development system is trending downward. When adjusted for inflation, the amount of federal funding flowing to Wisconsin's six largest workforce development programs has declined by 20% since 2000. The State of Wisconsin has increased support for workforce development services in recent years, primarily through new work/training requirements for Food Share recipients, but that additional funding only offset a small portion of the federal losses.
  • Wisconsin policymakers must ensure the state’s workforce development services are appropriately scaled and designed to meet the projected demand for workers. Wisconsin's unemployment rate is at its lowest point since 2000 and the state's working-age population is expected to see little growth through 2040. Meanwhile, roughly 196,000 new jobs were projected to be added to the state's economy between 2014 and 2024 alone. State workforce development efforts will need to prepare enough workers to fill the projected job openings and ensure training and educational opportunities are consistent with the types of jobs that will become available.