Mayville Enginering Company manager Matt Winter leads a tour with state Workforce Development Secretary Caleb Frostman at the company's east-side Beaver Dam facility on Monday. Frostman is touring the state as part of Manufacturing Month in Wisconsin.

October was a big month at the Department of Workforce Development. We recognized Manufacturing Month by celebrating one of our state's most important industries, which provides nearly a half-million jobs and almost 20% of our state's GDP.

Across Wisconsin, we handed out proclamations, lauded effective training programs, toured high-tech and high-performance facilities and touted the importance of the manufacturing sector to our state's near- and long-term economic well-being. The days of "dark, dingy and dangerous" describing manufacturing are long gone, and we were happy to help trumpet the value and appeal of manufacturing in Wisconsin.

Fortunately for our state's economic stability and competitiveness, manufacturing is here to stay, and DWD remains committed to enhancing the training infrastructure to ensure family-sustaining careers in manufacturing for generations to come.

We also celebrated National Disability Employment Awareness Month, or NDEAM. DWD is proud that one of its six divisions, Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), is entirely dedicated to improving employment outcomes for Wisconsinites with disabilities. If you ask the DVR team, their goals are to help people with disabilities get a job, keep a job or get a better job. And they are incredibly effective at achieving those goals. Home to a variety of programs that engage and support employers and disabled workers and job seekers, DVR is on the front lines helping expand Wisconsin's workforce and improve economic outcomes for thousands of disabled Wisconsin workers.

Throughout October, I visited businesses across the state celebrating their commitment to employing individuals with disabilities. In recognition of their efforts to create a Wisconsin workforce that works for all of us, Gov. Tony Evers issued NDEAM Exemplary Employer awards to 26 proud Wisconsin businesses that work closely with DVR. These businesses provide accommodations and resources for DVR consumers throughout their employment journeys, and in return, secure dedicated employees who are eager to contribute, enhancing their workplaces and the entire state's workforce.

As we travel Wisconsin to hear from all economic stakeholders, including manufacturing employers, the tight labor market is a common topic. No matter the industry or the region, employers are struggling to find the quantity of workers with the necessary skills to expand their businesses. Many of the employers that are experiencing success in attracting and retaining top talent are doing so, at least in part, by casting a wider net for potential employees, very much including Wisconsinites with diverse abilities. Whether it's utilizing DWD's Business Service Consultants to make their workplace more accommodating, hosting internship opportunities through Project SEARCH, or specifically recruiting applicants with disabilities, Wisconsin employers are finding immense value and return on investment by expanding their candidate pool and hiring Wisconsinites with disabilities.

I'm grateful that the Evers administration is joined by many quality employers who agree that striving for a workforce inclusive of those with disabilities not only helps address our workforce shortage, but also makes good business sense regardless of economic conditions. From small businesses and franchises in southeastern Wisconsin to manufacturers in north-central Wisconsin and everywhere in between, taking an inclusive approach to workforce recruitment is good for a business's bottom line, disabled Wisconsinites' economic independence and the economic vitality of our state's economy at every juncture of the economic cycle.

We are appreciative of employers recognizing the value of casting a wider net in their workforce recruitment efforts, and DWD will continue its work to widen and strengthen that net for all Wisconsin workers and employers.

Caleb Frostman is secretary-designee of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

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