Economic development is a team sport. This is especially true when it comes to addressing workforce challenges.  Thrive Economic Development (ThriveED) works with employers and industry trade groups, educational institutions, regional and state agencies, workforce boards and other community-based organizations to develop solutions to one of the most pressing challenges faced by employers today – ensuring there is a pipeline of workers available to meet current and future employer needs in the Dodge and Jefferson County area.

Where do community colleges fit into the mix? Madison College has two campuses in Jefferson County, and Moraine Park Technical College has one in Dodge County. Madison College offers associate degrees, technical diplomas and certificates in more than 150 career programs. Moraine Park offers an impressive array of technical diplomas, associate degree programs and certificates as well. Both offer customized training to meet the specific needs of business.

How do these institutions know what is needed? Not only are they in touch with employers in their communities on a regular basis, but both have Advisory Boards comprised of private and public sector employers, and manufacturing firms are always on these boards.

Madison College relies on its meetings with the Advisory Board to ensure that the college is providing training that matches the needs of area employers. Because the industry representatives participating in the advisory meetings work in the field every day, they have invaluable insight into what courses and programs can best help employers meet their workforce needs.

Madison College and Moraine Park offer manufacturing training programs for high school students. These programs are run collaboratively with local high schools and businesses. Part of the students’ training may also include a paid internship, which can provide valuable hands-on experience and help students determine if manufacturing is right for them.

Madison College hosts a breakfast for manufacturers each October in order to gain a better understanding of their specific workforce challenges and to highlight what the college is doing to prepare workers.

“The manufacturing breakfast was a way for the college to show local employers the array of services that we could offer local manufacturers,” notes Jim Falco, Associate Vice President – Regional Campuses for Madison College. “For example, in addition to offering certificate, diploma and associate degree programs in manufacturing, we also offer short term and customized contract training. Companies can tailor their training needs around their schedules and their workforce.”

Programs that address workforce challenges must be responsive and flexible. Worker challenges vary based upon the type of industry and the location of the business.  A manufacturer in Mayville and a health care organization in Fort Atkinson may both be struggling to find workers. However, what may work for the manufacturer may not work for the hospital! Addressing employers’ workforce challenges on an individual basis, and meeting their evolving needs, requires collaboration and robust partnerships.