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FVTC, Goodwill, Rawhide partnership becoming reality

New program funded through a Wisconsin Workforce Innovation Grant

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November 2, 2022

APPLETON – The abrupt shift in the workplace many experienced because of the COVID-19 pandemic left some unsure how or unable to reenter the workforce after things slowly returned to “normal.”

Recognizing some may need a helping hand as they navigate that transition, partners Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC), Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin and Rawhide Youth Services are moving forward with a program designed to do just that – get individuals back into the workplace.

What is being described as a pioneering training program, Career EXCELerate Wisconsin aims to get individuals impacted by the pandemic back into the workforce, especially those navigating mental health challenges.

The program, which will be housed at FVTC, is being funded through a $6.5 million Wisconsin Workforce Innovation Grant.
“We are on track to launch the program to a group of students in January,” Andy Rinke, a representative from FVTC’s transportation technologies division, said. “The training program is designed to help alleviate some of the economic hardships and reverse the mental health challenges created because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The partnering organizations gave a presentation on the program late last month to several manufacturing employers that will likely benefit from students who train in one of these programs.

Rinke said training and certifications in such areas as wood manufacturing/cabinet making, welding fundamentals, plumbing, early childhood teacher’s aide, nursing assistant, truck driving and mechanic–vehicle manufacturing will be offered through the Career EXCELerate Wisconsin program.

“FVTC will provide the education, with about a year or less turnaround,” he said. “After this, the students will be well on their way to a career path. We’re expecting to serve almost 500 students through the 2024 calendar year.”

Rinke said the program will be offered at no cost to individuals and will be open to anyone who shows a need.

“Our friends at Rawhide and Goodwill will work with individuals to determine how the pandemic has affected them and if they truly qualify for this program,” he said. “Many people in our community will qualify because of how the pandemic adversely affected them. The $6.5 million grant we received will help fund it.”

If individuals make it through the program and stay the course, Rinke said they are guaranteed employment.

“That’s part of why we presented (the program to area manufacturing employers),” he said. “Many employers from the area whom we’ve worked with in the past were present. They’ve indicated to us they need employees, and we’re here to help them.”
Rinke said support will be offered to students throughout the program.

“There are many barriers to completing an education or training,” he said. “It could be assistance with travel or helping with childcare needs – those wraparound types of services that people depend on to make it to training or work.”
The behind-the-scenes support
Jennie Moore, vice president of programs and partnerships with Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin, said she’s “super proud of the collaboration” the partnering organizations have created.

“It’s taken three agencies doing what they do best to make it a reality,” she said. “The individuals identify a career goal and then achieve that goal. We know employers have a need, and we’re here to fill that need.”

Jennie Moore

Whereas FVTC provides the space/equipment to train the students, Moore said Goodwill also has a specific role in the process.
“It’s what we’re known for and what we do best – provide the job skills, training and employability skills to individuals in our community to help them reach sustainable employment and economic stability,” she said.?

Moore said Goodwill plans to take a holistic approach.

“We’ll do wraparound care and case management services for people who come into the program, from the beginning to the end,” she said. “We’ll help them identify a prospective career path and then help them get into the system. After that, we’ll be with them the entire time.”

Moore said if there are barriers along the way, such as childcare and transportation needs, Goodwill will connect the individuals with a community resource to assist them.

“For example, if someone needs help with digital skills training, we could step in and provide that,” she said. “When people graduate, we’ll be there to help them with resume writing, interview skills and help them get that job. After placement, we’ll follow them along for one year and be present.”

Moore said without the grant, none of this would be possible.

“That goes without saying,” she said. “Fox Valley Tech is best with educating people; Goodwill has a long history of providing job skills and aiming for job sustainability and Rawhide for its trauma-informed approach.”
Innovative ideas
Kaleb Schad, director of strategy and marketing for Rawhide, said the three partners are using the grant money “exactly what it was intended for.”

“The grant money was set up for innovative ideas of how to get new people into the workforce,” he said. “Everyone is facing workforce challenges, so the program needed to be fresh and unique.”

Schad said at Rawhide, “they are a premier mental/behavioral health agency.”

 Kaleb Schad

“We’ve seen firsthand what mental health challenges can have on someone’s employment chances and their ability to get and keep a job long-term,” he said. “We already had a partnership with Goodwill and we were exploring some options with FVTC – then this grant came along. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to bring our three organizations together.”

Schad said the program centers around the mental health aspect – Rawhide’s specialty.

“We’ve created a new role called a ‘navigator,’” he said. “This is a mental health expert who will sit in the classroom with the student and build a relationship – before class and after class, too. They’ll keep them on track and engaged.”

Schad said for someone with trauma in their background, transition is hard.

“As they transition from being a student to being an employee, now they have to practice everything,” he said. “That navigator can stay with them – that Rawhide team member – through that first year and help them to succeed.”

Schad said he feels the navigator role was the lynchpin of the whole thing.

“I believe that was the ‘new’ piece that was innovative for the governor’s office,” he said. “All of us have employers begging us to help with their employment problems. If the students stick with a program, we’re going to get them a job and offer a full year of support afterward.”

For more information on Career EXCELerate, visit

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