Lieutenant governor turns focus on jobsWisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch had several stops to make while in Superior on Friday.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch had several stops to make while in Superior on Friday.
From touring Rob’s Cabinetry and Millwork, meeting with local media, patronizing local businesses in search of birthday presents for 9-year-olds to addressing the Douglas County Republican Party during its third annual Spring Fling, Kleefisch got a first-hand look at the Twin Ports, guided by former mayor and secretary of the Department of Safety and Professional services, Dave Ross.
“I wanted to tour Rob’s because we spend a lot of time in this administration, in the lieutenant governor’s office in particular, talking about manufacturing, jobs and the economy,” Kleefisch said. “A lot of people are spending a lot of time talking about that, but in my officer I am the jobs ambassador of the state.”
In that role, she said she travels around the state, holding roundtables with businesspeople, to find out what they need in order to feel comfortable creating jobs.
“We take their good ideas back to the Capitol, and kind of translate those into legislation that, in turn, becomes law to help our job creators feel comfortable, have the certainty they need, in order to take their money out of the bank and invest it in their workforce, which is where we want it right now to stimulate the economy,” she said.
Another issue she is working to address is the state’s job skills gap. While many employers have jobs available, they struggle to find people with the qualifications to fill those positions.
She said it’s an issue that is going to become more apparent as baby boomers begin to retire.
“We need to be taking a good look out into the future and planning for those retirements and making sure the folks we have coming up through our educational system now are excited about the opportunities that are available because the opportunities that are available in our state are tremendous. We have more manufacturers per capita than any other state in the country. That means really good things for Wisconsin, but we need to make sure our young people understand how exciting these jobs can be.”
In fact, in the northern region of the state, educators have created consortiums in an effort to close that gap.
Northwest Wisconsin Educators for Regional Development — NorthWERD — was years in the making and was created to provide employers with a one-stop-shop to respond to the needs of regional developers and students. The goal of the consortium, which includes CESA 12, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College, Northland College, Northcentral Technical College, University of Wisconsin-Colleges, Extension and UW-Superior, and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, is to work with employers and students to ensure students are training for available jobs and curricula is relevant to employers’ needs.
“We are addressing things like that skills gap,” Kleefisch said. She said while there are 25,000 to 37,000 jobs posted on the state’s jobs website, about 100,000 people remain on unemployment insurance, and closing the skills gap could have a direct effect on the state’s 6.7 percent unemployment rate.
She said the state is also working to address high unemployment rates among returning veterans.
Wisconsin has declared 2012 as the Year of the Veteran and provides opportunities for returning veterans seeking employment in the state.
“Often times our military veterans come equipped with a skill set … they can do things under pressure,” Kleefisch said. “They know how to show up on time, and some of the important things that come with having basic soft skills. That’s why our veterans are also a part of our Wisconsin Working plan.”
Veterans can take advantage of the opportunities, which includes receiving notice about job postings 24 hours in advance of the general population by visiting http://yearoftheveteran.org, or sign up at www.wisconsinjobcenter.org.
“That’s a really key piece,” Kleefisch said.