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7 Rivers Alliance planning for the next decade of workforce development
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7 Rivers Alliance planning for the next decade of workforce development

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The 7 Rivers Alliance is planning for the next decade of workforce development in Western Wisconsin.

The organization, with the help of local business leaders, began work this month on the WISE Plan, which will be used to influence workforce development policy in the region through 2026. The $200,000 project, which has received funding from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the 7 Rivers Alliance and its partners, as well as the U.S. Economic Development Administration, will hire consultants to help identify needs and formulate goals and proposals to address them.

By 2040, more than 40 percent of the region’s population will be retirement age or older, 7 Rivers CEO Lisa Herr said, and there are already 246,000 jobs in the 14-county 7 Rivers Region that are unfilled due to a tight labor market and growing skills gab. These trends won’t go away, Herr said, and when asked by WEDC, her organization agreed to coordinate a plan to address them.

“It was always on our radar to do something to address workforce development,” Herr said.

The plan includes three areas: talent preparation focusing on educators, talent recruiters such as chambers of commerce and talent retention; resources and capacity available in the region to implement workforce development strategies; and public policy recommendations needed to attract and retain needed talent.

“That’s what makes it unique is the three parts to it,” Herr said. “Most projects just stop after part one.”

A network of regional partners will be recruited to participate in shaping the project, Herr said, and 7 Rivers is still looking for more participants. The majority of the funding will be used to hire consultants with expertise in workforce development in similar communities to help flesh out the plan.

“We’re not Milwaukee or Madison,” Herr said. “We have different demographics and need to bring in experts on communities similar to ours.”

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Nathan Hansen has been the Education Reporter for the Tribune since 2014. Prior to that, he covered education, agriculture and business topics for the Winona Daily News. He is always on the lookout for news tips and can be contacted at 608-791-8234.

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