State jobs director: 'Good as it's ever been'

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Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News Beloit Public Library Director and Beloit Rotary President Nick Dimassis shakes the hand of Department of Workforce Development Executive Director Ray Allen. Allen spoke at a Rotary lunch on Tuesday about the growing state economy.

BELOIT - Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Executive Director Ray Allen said Wisconsinites are living in extraordinary times when it comes to employment opportunities. Allen spoke at a Rotary lunch on Tuesday about DWD's efforts to get more people in the state's workforce.

"The economy at this time is as good as it ever has been," Allen said. "Anybody that wants a job can have one."

In 2010, Allen said Wisconsin had a 9.3 percent unemployment rate. In 2018, it's 3.0 percent.

In Beloit, unemployment was 18.5 in January 2010, and it was down to 4.4 percent in August.

Allen highlighted some of the Department of Workforce Development's efforts to build the state's labor pool such as a plan to bring millennials to Wisconsin and to create internships. If people have an internship with a Wisconsin company, for example, their chances of staying in the state is estimated to be 70 percent.

The department is trying to get those outside of the workforce employed again. One way is by offering a grant for entities to invest in vans and other flexible transportation to allow people to get to work and training.

By providing more robust support for people with disabilities through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Allen said 6,000 people have been placed in jobs throughout the state.

The department continues to work with the K-12 educational system, expanding the number of individuals who get into apprenticeship programs in a variety of career fields including information technology, healthcare and financial services as well as the trades.

Allen said there are opportunities within the state for family-supporting jobs not requiring a college degree.

"Our efforts are focused on providing opportunity and exposure to young people so they can make informed decisions," he said.

The department has also partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Tourism to attract veterans who are transitioning out of military service back to the state.

At the end of his presentation, Allen encouraged people to be supportive of Foxconn Technology Group's project in Wisconsin as it would bring in $10 billion in capital investment in the state with about 13,000 jobs in addition to 8,000-10,000 jobs created from businesses locating in Wisconsin to support Foxconn.

"Our commitment is not a giveaway. The money invested in the state by Foxconn would be extraordinary," he said. "It will revitalize that area. No matter how you feel, I hope you give it the chance to grow. I believe it will turn around the southeastern part of the state."

It is estimated FoxConn will add $51 billion to Wisconsin's GDP over 15 years - $18 for every $1 spent by the state on incentives.

"It also will put the state on the map. It's the only plant of that high of technical nature in the United States. It will be a magnet for young people to come here to work and be trained here," he said.

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