A new initiative in Rock County is hoping to help more folks gain skills to get them back into the workforce.
Employers participating in the Work Today program pay to have workers trained to fill specific openings at their companies.
Five local employers have already signed up for the program: Kerry Ingredients, Beloit Memorial Hospital, Blackhawk Transport, Regal Beloit and Cotta Transmissions.
The AT&T Foundation also contributed to the effort, and the total amount contributed is around $60,000.
Wayne Hanna, CEO of Cotta, is confident the money they've put in will pay off. Cotta Transmissions in Beloit specializes in gear boxes that go inside machinery -- everything from mining equipment to street sweepers. Their largest supplier is Caterpiller.
Hanna said finding qualified workers is tough.
"At the beginning of last year, we added about 15 positions, more than half of which were in our plant. It was very difficult to fill those with skilled people," he said.
Just over half of Cotta's 90 employees are production workers, and Hanna said they're going to need more soon.
"Our plan is to grow with in the next couple of years --- to double in size, and to do that, we're going to have to have quite a few people on both sides of the aisle," said Hanna.
Southwest Work Development Board, the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce, Manpower and a number of partners are teaming for the Work Today program. Despite a recent UW study, Bob Borremans, CEO of Southwest Workforce Development Board, said there is a gap between what employers are looking for and the skills job seekers have.
"Yes, there is a skills gap here, and I believe all over Wisconsin," he said.
Borremans is hoping to close the skills gap by putting workers into job training programs.
"We will identify the skills employers are looking for in open jobs, and then we will train people specifically for those jobs," he said.
Hanna said having a specific job in mind is a win- win for job seekers and employers.
"This way, we get more closely identified skill sets that match up with what we need, and what are needs are going to be going forward," Hanna said.
Borremans said he's looking for additional employers to join the program. He added many of the employers have already started placing folks in the program, meaning he could begin to see how successful the partnership has been as soon as this fall.
For more information on the program, contact the Rock County Jobs Center.