September 15th, 2021 | Published September 9, 2021 | Green Bay Press Gazette
GREEN BAY - Unemployed people and workers who are struggling to support their families can apply for an $8,000 scholarship to pursue higher-paying jobs in one of five high-demand industries.
The Bay Area Workforce Development Board is offering 100 scholarships to residents of its 11-county service region—which includes Brown, Outagamie, Manitowoc and Sheboygan counties. The scholarships aim to help people pursue degrees, technical certificates or other training necessary for careers in transportation, manufacturing, health care, construction or information technology.
The scholarships aim to provide direct aid to unemployed or underemployed workers in the region while also helping industries address a shortage of skilled labor, said Matt Valiquette, the Bay Area Workforce Development Board's executive director.
"We're talking about hundreds and hundreds of different training programs and opportunities available at our local technical colleges and universities," Valiquette said. "These industries offer family-supporting jobs. They’re the drivers of much of our economies and communities."
The scholarships can be used to attend any higher education institution in the region including Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, UW-Green Bay campuses, Fox Valley Technical College, the College of the Menominee Nation and private training centers that offer certifications for specific jobs and industries.
All you have to do is visit or contact one of the Bay Area Workforce Development Board's eight job centers in the region. Staff will be available to help applicants explore opportunities in the different industries.
"We've got folks that may not know exactly what they want to do or how to go about doing it, so we have programs we can use to make sure it’s the right career pathway for them. But there are other folks who come in and know exactly what they want to do," Valiquette said. "Pick up the phone, give us a call and we’ll get the process started. We can move pretty quickly."
The scholarships cover more than just tuition and textbooks. Valiquette said the scholarships can also fund transportation, child care, tools and other direct costs that can pose barriers to people pursuing a change of careers. He also said the support doesn't stop when a person heads off to school.
"This is far more than handing them a check and sending them off to college," he said. "We assign a career service specialist to walk with them through the process until they get their first job."
Ann Franz, executive director of the Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance, is enthusiastic about the impact the scholarships could have both on families and manufacturers struggling to find enough workers.
"Every day I have companies contact me looking for all levels of talent," Franz said. "This investment is really going to make a difference in peoples' lives and in our community."
Franz said the five industries selected have overlapping needs, too. She said the alliance spent the last year training more than 200 manufacturing employees in data analytics, a specific skill that will only grow more important as manufacturers look to improve production efficiencies.
"There's a lot of data, but it's only as good as the person looking at it," Franz said. "It's critical to have people with more skills in data analytics."
Valiquette said there is one problem he'd like for the scholarship program to have: More applicants than available funding. He said companies in health care, manufacturing, information technology, transportation and construction have hundreds of jobs available that he'd like to help them fill.
He also encouraged those not working now or who work but do not make enough to afford basic household necessities to think big with the program.
"Don't rule anything out," Valiquette said. "We want folks to see beyond what they have for themselves. Some folks may look past school or feel their age might be some sort of a disadvantage. Don't de-select yourself. Schools are so good right now about making sure every student has the resources to be successful."
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