This week, CEDC staff and board members attended Gov. Tony Evers’ announcement of the Workforce Innovation Grant Program’s winning projects in the Chippewa Valley at the Davies Student Center on the UW-Eau Claire campus. Also in attendance were Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes, Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary-designee Amy Pechacek, UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt, CVTC President Dr. Sunem Beaton-Garcia, and other dignitaries. Of the $60 million awarded, over $19 million was allocated to projects that CEDC supported, promoted, and worked on in some degree! It seems like only yesterday when CEDC staff and board members were invited to a meeting at CoLab in Eau Claire to attend a round table discussion and a call for the first round of projects/ideas for the Workforce Innovation Grant Program. That was back in July. Since then, the CEDC has been in partnership with our key partners to identify, support, and promote several ideas that would be well-qualified and deserving of these funds. Working with PMI LLC – a Bloomer, Wisconsin company – to help identify an innovative talent pipeline program, CEDC brought together former CEO of Workforce Resource Deb Leslie, Manufacturing Works, CVTC partners, and the Bloomer School District to consider a proposed training center in Bloomer for application submission. This idea took flight! With the foresight and support of CVTC, the project became a larger, regional initiative. The CVTC proposed using Workforce Innovation Grant Program funds for an innovative and necessary project called Restoring Employment through Support, Training, Outreach, Recruitment, and Education (RESTORE). The idea is to use a multi-pronged approach to address the need for skilled workers in metal fabrication across the manufacturing sector through outreach, short-term training with integrated educational pathways, and contextualized and work-based learning opportunities. The project model employs multi-purpose training centers such as the PMI planned center and mobile labs – strategically integrating them in rural regions – to be utilized by high schools and employers. “As a local manufacturer in Bloomer, finding talent has been difficult due to a variety of factors. By funding the RESTORE program, the Chippewa Valley will be in a much better position to grow our own talent,” noted Shirley Gutsch, CEDC board member and Human Resources director at PMI, LLC. “Collaboration between education and industry is essential in meeting our community’s workforce needs.” The RESTORE program was awarded $10 million for its implementation. UW-Eau Claire’s Strengthening the Workforce for Rural Health and Wellbeing Program was also awarded $9.4 million. This initiative is aimed at working with local school districts and social services organizations to place education and social work students in rural settings to encourage them to stay and build their careers. CEDC supported this project because it helps reduce the out-migration of our talent. Partnering with Mayo Clinic Health System-Northwest WI to create an innovative curriculum and clinical experiences graduates more nurses and increases the availability of social workers. The program also positions the region for steady growth and builds a foundation for long-term talent development in growing healthcare fields. Congratulations to CVTC, UW-Eau Claire, and all their partners and stakeholders who worked aggressively to design and submit a workforce initiative project worthy of a Workforce Innovation Grant.