Half of $1.6 million in training grants coming to region

Two-thirds of 513 trainees to be incumbent workers at companies


The latest round of Wisconsin Fast Forward grants from the state Department of Workforce Development will go towards training nearly 1,300 workers across 43 companies statewide.


Sixteen grants worth a total of more than $1.6 million are being awarded, with five going to southeastern Wisconsin companies and organizations to support training for more than 500 people.

The Wisconsin Fast Forward program was started in 2013 with $30 million in funding aimed at proving employers with support for customized training to fill current job openings and ongoing skill requirements.

Through the first four rounds of grants the department has granted 197 contracts worth $18 million. Roughly $7.3 million was reimbursed through the end of 2016. The department has closed out 64 of the grants with 2,940 people receiving training.

About 57 percent of the training has gone to incumbent workers while roughly 20 percent were unemployed or underemployed trainees. The department says average hourly wages increased from $18.10 to $20.12 for the 2,371 trainees with data available.

The fifth round of grants included the recently announced $1.6 million along with nearly $480,000 announced earlier this year for projects targeted in the Milwaukee area. The targeted grants included $200,000 for Word of Hope Ministries to train 300 employees for Patrick Cudahy and Quad/Graphics. Gov. Scott Walker’s office said two training sessions have been held to date and 38 people completed job training.

Half of the $1.6 million worth of grants will be going to southeastern Wisconsin efforts, including $400,000 to Germantown-based Gehl Foods Inc. The company plans to train 32 new hires and 56 incumbent employees on using new equipment to expand the business. Twelve leadership positions will be recruited from the trainee group.

Other awards include:

  • $185,862 for Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership Inc., WRTP/Big Step, to train 45 incumbent workers with industrial manufacturing technician skills at five companies including Birds Eye-Pinnacle Foods, Hayes Performance Systems, Saco AEI Polymers, Weldall Fabrication Company and Wrought Washer Mfg., Inc. Training will be done in partnership with Gateway, Lakeshore, Milwaukee Area and Waukesha Area technical colleges.
  • $122,260 for Kenosha-based Kenall Manufacturing to train 76 new hires and 56 incumbent employees in metal fabrication, new surface mount technology and plastic and paint extrusions.
  • $98,617 for Alcami Wisconsin Corporation in Germantown to train 190 incumbent employees and 50 new hires in technical and leadership skills to improve product quality, production, customer service and safety.
  • $26,920 for Pewaukee-based Abaxent LLC to train eight new hires in partnership with MetalEra on manufacturing operations, including press operations, forklift, safety, measurements, material handling, packaging and product training.
  • Several Sheboygan-area companies, including Sargento, Johnsonville Sausage and Kohler Co., are also involved in a $110,954 grant to the Bay Area Workforce Development Board, NEW Manufacturing Alliance and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College for machine operator training for 74 incumbent employees.

About two-third of the workers being trained by the southeastern Wisconsin grants will be incumbent workers.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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