Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson visited Hudson Wednesday, Aug. 27. He met with Hudson School District officials and received an update on a $108,497 Fast Forward grant
awarded to the district’s Accelerating Youth Career Readiness project.
The Fast Forward program was designed to help close the state’s job skills gap -- training students for jobs that are in demand.
Newson said one of the DWD’s most important missions is to help get students involved in training for those high-demand jobs.
“Most people look at young people and assume they will graduate from high school, go to college and get a job,” Newson said. “We have to remind people, especially parents, that there are different pathways to good paying jobs.”
That’s where the DWD’s Fast Forward program comes into play.
The DWD awarded the Hudson School District a grant of $108,497 for its Accelerating Youth Career Readiness project because it partners with Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, three school districts, CESA 11, and West Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board. The program is designed to train 80 high school students for careers as nursing assistants, in hospitality/lodging/tourism or construction fields.
Successful trainees will gain certification in OSHA 10, First Aid and CPR, Employability Skills, ServSafe and entry into a Youth Apprenticeship program as well as be provided placement opportunities for employment at various local businesses.
“Studies show that 50 percent of high school career choices are determined by a parent or guardian,” Newson said. “We have to get the parents to recognize that there are multiple options to getting jobs.”
He said that students training at WITC (one or two years) can sometimes make more money than someone who goes to a traditional college for four years. Not only can they qualify for high-paying jobs, but they also graduate with a significantly smaller debt than a college grad.
“The program in Hudson is training students for high-demand jobs,” Newson said. “The DWD’s goal is to develop strategic integration – build more partnerships between employers and educators. This is powerful stuff – it gives kids a leg up.”
Newson said the program is part of Gov. Scott walker’s effort to develop more talent within the state to meet employer demands.
“The state is investing $100 million into these types of programs,” he said. “The governor wants better work-force development across the state and it can happen with the power of collaboration.”
Newson was also happy with the unique association of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College and UW-Stout.
“A student can go to an Indianhead Technical College for two years and all credits will transfer to Stout,” Newson said. “This is the only place in Wisconsin where this is happening – we need to build other partnerships in other parts of the state. This is all related to high-demand jobs.”
State Rep. Dean Knudson accompanied Newson to the school meeting.
Also at the event was DWD regional representative Steve Blodgett and Deputy Secretary Dave Anderson. Blodgett’s office is in Eau Claire.
“I was glad to welcome Secretary Newson to Hudson,” said Knudson. “The Fast Forward program was designed to help alleviate Wisconsin’s skills gap, and awarding grants to school districts allows our students to be actively involved in improving our workforce is a great start. These students have a direct stake in a better Wisconsin with a strong economy, and I’m very happy to see DWD aiding that effort.”
Newson said the Fast Forward program is a look into the department’s future.
“We need to focus on market-driven talent development,” Newson said. “We have to understand the employer’s needs and prepare people to meet those needs.”
The DWD also deals with other work-related issues, including unemployed workers and acts as a resource to help them find jobs and/or training.
Anyone wishing to contact the DWD may call Steve Blodgett in his regional office in Eau Claire at (715) 836-2656.
Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson leads the state agency charged with building and strengthening Wisconsin's workforce. He served as deputy secretary from August 2011 until Gov. Scott Walker appointed him secretary on Oct. 24, 2011.
Secretary Newson directs the state workforce agency that has an annual budget of over $450 million, over 1,600 employees and six divisions: Employment and Training, Administrative Services, Equal Rights, Unemployment Insurance, Worker’s Compensation and Vocational Rehabilitation.
Prior to his tenure at DWD, Newson served as Assistant Deputy Secretary at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT), operations director for DOT’s Southeast Region and has managed the state Disadvantaged Enterprise Program.
Newson has an MBA with an emphasis in corporate communications from Concordia University Wisconsin, an undergraduate degree and master’s degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
He also has an associate’s degree in commercial real estate (ACRE) from Marquette University and a certified Six Sigma black belt.