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UW Parkside Embraces Workforce Development
by Beth Norris

Posted on 2/22/07

Universities can and must play a vital role in workforce development. UW Parkside is embracing this opportunity. As a result, our students are learning, our faculty are becoming engaged, and our community is tapping into the university’s reservoir of expertise and passion.

Why is UWP vested in workforce development?

Because the future of our communities depend upon it. Southeastern Wisconsin is an economy in transition. Our area is known for strong manufacturing, beautiful natural resources, and a strong work ethic. But we face challenges—global competition, urban poverty, brain drain, job loss, and economic uncertainty. As the world gets smaller, the arena in which we operate as a university gets larger. Most importantly, as a university, we have discovered that our relevance is contingent upon our recognition of our connection to our local and global communities. Fortunately we have resources to bring to the table. Therein lies the magic.

What is UW-P doing to contribute to workforce development efforts?

UW Parkside is helping develop the workforce in numerous ways, especially in the areas that follow:


UW-Parkside helps lead, staff, and facilitate the local workforce investment system. The director of the local workforce board is an employee of the university, the chancellor is a member of regional and local workforce development boards, the dean of community engagement chairs a local youth council, and the university employs key team leaders for a world renouned one-stop center. This facilitates input, creativity, and leadership within all levels of the local workforce development system.

Dialogue based upon research

UWP facilitates research and dialogue on key workforce topics. As example, Racine, has the lowest educational attainment rate of 18-24 year old males in the entire state of Wisconsin. Forty-two percent of this segment of Racine’s population lack high school diplomas. To help address this problem, the local workforce board commissioned UW Parkside to analyze the problem, research solutions, engage the community in providing input, and help formulate strategies to improve educational outcomes. The university mobilized faculty, students, researchers, and numerous community segments—such as law enforcement, parents, service providers, and dropouts themselves-- in the research and dialogue initiative.


UWP has adopted engagement as a major focus of the university’s mission. This is occurring internally, locally, regionally, and statewide. The university has a dean position that is specifically dedicated to community engagement and service learning. Additionally the university provides an administrative home for Wisconsin Campus Compact, and organization which seeks to promote post secondary community and civic engagement efforts across the state of Wisconsin.

Connecting Talent to Business

UWP utilizes internships, class projects, and centers of excellence within the university to connect students and teachers to business projects throughout the area. Through partnership with the Small Business Development Center and funding through the local workforce system, the universitie’s best and brightest students in marketing, accounting, business, and computer systems comprise rapid response teams. These student teams assist new and expanding businesses in high growth areas. One of the first students to participate was hired by one of these companies at a starting salary of $60,000.

The Key to Success

UW-Parkside is a learning institution. In other words, we are always learning. When it comes to workforce development these are the things we are learning. First partnerships are the key. We do our best work when we listen, respond, and combine our efforts with other agencies, organizations, and educational institutions. Second, efforts must be focused. Finding projects that hone in on specific workforce needs in areas where we have university expertise and student learning potential offer the best bang. Choosing our areas of involvement carefully ensures that our successes will build and our vestedness will grow. Third and finally, our best efforts align with broader regional strategies. UW-Parkside is just one institution among a cadre of top notch universities, technical schools, and private colleges within the region. The potential that all these institutions can play in building the future of southeastern Wisconsin is phenomenal. If we align our efforts amazing things will continue to happen.

Beth Norris is the Director of Workforce Development at the University of Wisconsin Parkside.


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