Workforce Corner: Collaboration key in economic and workforce developmentCollaboration has always been integral to successful workforce and economic development efforts.
By: By Mari Kay-Nabozny, Superior Telegram
Collaboration has always been integral to successful workforce and economic development efforts.
Recently, leaders in education, workforce, and economic development have begun partnering to address regional workforce needs. The Northwest Wisconsin Educators for Regional Development and Vision Northwest are two new local partnerships focusing on northwest Wisconsin.
Another collaborative effort the Wisconsin Workforce Development Association is launching is Skills Wisconsin, a statewide initiative to improve industry-driven worker training services.
Northwest Wisconsin Educators for Regional Development (NorthWERD) is a partnership formed by representatives from public, private and tribal higher learning institutions and agencies. Before the partnership officially formed, NorthWERD members had been meeting for over a year to think about how regional higher education institutions could fit together to more intentionally meet the needs of local businesses and coordinate with students to find pathways to degrees and careers. Two work groups are tasked with researching and figuring out ways to better meet the demands of industry and develop clear advising pathways for all types of students, including those deciding to return to education. NorthWERD is coordinating to leverage resources for current and evolving educational needs for employers, students, communities and governments within the region.
“As industries and sectors emerge, the educational institutions should be paying attention and assisting in workforce development, leadership development, and advanced and customized training,” said Mike Miller, Northland College President and vice chair of NorthWERD. “Considering how we collaboratively understand the needs of the region, and its residents has led to new ways our colleges and universities can work together efficiently.
For example, we are researching new ways to promote the region, refining our knowledge of capabilities we need from our graduates, articulating programs across campuses in order to expand options for students and finding that by not duplicating but differentiating our collective programs we stretch our ability to advance the economic development of the region.”
Another collaborative initiative in the process of organizing is Vision Northwest. The emphasis of Vision Northwest is to enhance regional collaboration, networking and educational skill development in partnership with Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Vision Northwest is comprised of representatives from counties, villages, cities, Economic Development Corporation, five tribal nations, educational institutions, private sector businesses, Northwest Regional Planning Commission and the Northwest Wisconsin Workforce Investment Board, Inc., all serving the northwest region of Wisconsin. Priorities of this group consist of business prospecting, incentives and retention support; developing business infrastructure, including transportation and internet; and workforce skill development. This work includes identifying existing and potential industry sectors and what economic development activities can best be accomplished by this regional collaboration.
Some of the existing and potential industry sectors already identified are advanced manufacturing, forest/wood products, tourism, medical, energy, water resource technology and information technology.
“It is exciting to be a part of the development of the Visions Northwest group,” said Myron Schuster, Northwest Regional Planning Commission executive director. “This will be a strong private/public partnership in the northwest region that will foster business and workforce growth for the benefit of our region and the economy. I look forward to working with everyone involved.”
These efforts align with a new statewide workforce, educational and economic initiative. The Workforce Development Board of South Central Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Workforce Development Association recently received a Department of Labor Workforce Innovation Fund grant that will be used to launch Skills Wisconsin.
Locally, NWWIB Inc. will serve as one of four pilot regions during the initial deployment of Skills Wisconsin. While acting as a pilot region, NWWIB Inc. will test the statewide communication network and engage in partnerships around demand-driven business services, building of industry partnerships and enhancing skills training to develop “best practices.”
For more information about these local and statewide initiatives, go to www.nwwib.com.