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Collaboration, innovation key to supporting construction talent pool for Foxconn project

Georgia Maxwell is deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

Georgia Maxwell is deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

Many thanks to the Daily Reporter for highlighting the tremendous opportunities available to Wisconsin’s construction industry by organizing the “Foxconn — Constructing a New Wisconsin” panel discussion on August 23 in Racine.

I was honored to attend and take part in an important dialogue as we all prepare for this once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform Wisconsin’s economy.

Foxconn, the world’s fourth-largest technology company, recently joined the state of Wisconsin in signing a Memorandum of Understanding that will bring Foxconn’s first 21st Century advanced-manufacturing plant to Wisconsin. The importance of this project cannot be overstated; its $10 billion in capital investments will mark the largest economic-development project seen in our state’s history.

When complete, the plant and related support projects will give rise to a new technology hub. Modern liquid-crystal displays will be manufactured in the U.S., right here, in Wisconsin. The investment will provide 10,000 direct construction jobs annually over the next 4 to 6 years, and the completed plant could give provide jobs for as many as 13,000 individuals in well-paying career positions.

With these opportunities also come important questions. With Wisconsin’s unemployment rate at 3.2 percent, and its labor-force participation rate in the top 5 of all states, we hear a recurring question from the construction industry and other sectors: How will we ensure that labor-market demands will be met?

This is a great challenge to have, and one that Wisconsin is ready to meet. In the last four years, Wisconsin has invested over $362 million in state funding in initiatives to expand and support the workforce, our K-12 system is funded at record levels in the 2017-2019 budget and our post-secondary educational institutions are the envy of the nation. Through additional collaboration with technical colleges, universities, construction-industry partners and other entities, we will ensure there is a strong pool of skilled workers in the construction trades now and well into the future.

We applaud the construction industry for its outreach to veterans, former offenders, underemployed individuals, and others who have faced employment barriers, as the construction industry offers family-supporting jobs and a pathway to the middle class. At the Department of Workforce Development, we and our regional partners look forward to working with the construction industry to discuss additional strategies to find and train the talent needed to meet your labor-market needs.

Talent is attracted to opportunity, and Foxconn has put Wisconsin on a map that is visible to the nation. Not only will we foster and retain our own talent, we will attract employee interest from around the country to develop in-demand skill through longstanding, proven workforce programs like Youth and Registered Apprenticeship, which have trained and supported construction-industry talent for generations.

Through collaboration and innovation, we will meet the workforce opportunities that Wisconn Valley presents. It’s the Wisconsin way.

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