Superior leaders meet state officials to talk workforce

It’s hard to go a block without encountering a "We’re Hiring" sign in the Twin Ports. Tuesday in Superior, the deputy secretaries of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development stopped in to hear about the unique challenges in the northwestern corner of the state.

"The demographics are not working for us," WEDC Deputy Secretary Sam Rikkers told a small group of local leaders at the Superior Public Library.

He and DWD Deputy Secretary Pam McGillivray were mostly there to listen. Superior Douglas County Chamber of Commerce President Taylor Pedersen said hiring is a "constant struggle."

"We’re in our busiest tourism season, we’re in our busiest time of the year. Our locals love to get out and enjoy, and we’re seeing businesses really struggling to keep up," Pedersen said. "Some are struggling, some aren’t. But some are really struggling to provide the services they want to provide to their customers, the quality of customer service."

Other participants shared about challenges surrounding childcare and transportation.

Pedersen said he’d be interested in a statewide workforce attraction campaign like the one Superior recently launched. But he also wants to make sure everything is done with a local or regional focus.

"We have a different workforce and different challenge than many parts of the state. It’s not a one-size-fits-all, it’s not a silver bullet," he said. "But I think we have unique challenges that are ahead of us, and it will take a unique workforce strategy."

Rikkers and McGillivray were also there to spread the word about $130 million in grants that will soon be available throughout Wisconsin. $100 million will be considered workforce innovation grants. $20 million is earmarked for training-related expenses, and another $10 million is set aside for career counseling grants.

According to Rikkers, the WEDC hopes to get applications out for the biggest $100 million chunk in late August.

More information can be found here.