Every once in a while, someone in Madison concocts a common sense idea and then persuades people on both sides of the aisle to support it.
It's the rarest of feats in today's toxic political climate, but State Rep. Mark Honadel (R-South Milwaukee) appears to have done just that with his bill to create "Wisconsin Wins," a new training program for unemployed workers.
Known in the Capitol as Assembly Bill 450 and Senate Bill 352, the resolution was approved by the Senate and the Assembly with bipartisan support, and Gov. Scott Walker has indicated he will sign it into law when it reaches his desk.
"Wisconsin Wins" is a pilot program which offers voluntary workplace training to Unemployment Insurance claimants for 20 to 24 hours a week for up to six weeks. The program offers benefits to both employers and the unemployed.
"Employers can increase the probability of a good hire through the trial period, while reducing the usual risks and costs of hiring new employees," Honadel said.
Job seekers benefit by getting an opportunity to receive training and demonstrate their skills for a potential new employer, while still receiving unemployment benefits. At the end of the training period, they may be offered full-time employment.
According to Honadel, the idea is that the unemployment benefits are going to be paid out anyway, so why not let the unemployed person get a dress rehearsal at a prospective new job site?
The program provides incentives for employers to take chances on new workers and provides incentives - such as an additional $75 per week - for the laid off workers to participate in the program, rather than just collect unemployment benefits.
The plan apparently makes so much sense that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are supporting it.
"Well, I've done some work on this one. It's not easy. I've got good friends on both sides of the aisle. It's a good bipartisan bill," Honadel said. "It puts an unemployed worker right into the workplace. The best way to get a job is to do a job."
Honadel said he already has received strong interests in participation from Wisconsin employers in the service, transportation and manufacturing industries.
"I applaud the unanimous, bipartisan support from both the Assembly and Senate labor committees. I believe this legislation has garnered so much support because we can all recognize the importance of working together to provide innovative opportunities to get the unemployed back to work. The 'Wisconsin Wins' plan does just that by matching employers with job seekers for training directly in the workplace," Honadel said.
An additional benefit of the program is that, as it moves some people off the ranks of the unemployed, it will reduce the burgeoning burden on the state's Unemployment Insurance Fund.
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.