Leaving no skilled talent on the sidelines

Wisconsin's economy is growing, and employers need workers to either sustain or grow their companies. An ongoing skilled worker shortage means Wisconsin cannot leave any skilled talent on the sidelines, including those who want to work but cannot pass a drug test.

Gov. Scott Walker has made developing Wisconsin's workforce a top priority and his most recent budget included a new unemployment insurance initiative to provide treatment for claimants who fail a pre-employment drug test. All Wisconsin employers covered by the state's unemployment insurance system can now actively help grow the pool of skilled talent by choosing to report the name of anyone who either fails or refuses to take a pre-employment drug test as part of a job offer. The Department of Workforce Development's Unemployment Insurance Division makes it easy for employers to report this information and will keep the information secure and confidential.

Failing or refusing to take a drug test is essentially a refusal of suitable work. If the person who fails a drug test is collecting unemployment benefits and agrees to undergo treatment and complete a skills assessment, they can continue to collect those benefits while they address the underlying barriers preventing them from being work-ready. The Department of Workforce Development will furnish the claimant with referrals and instructions so they can complete the assessment and access treatment directly. If an individual refuses to take the test or they do not agree to treatment, unemployment benefits will be denied.

This new program isn't about denying benefits. It's about getting individuals the help they need to become an active participant in Wisconsin's labor force and achieve the dignity of earning a paycheck to support themselves and their families. It's also about supporting a workforce development system that taps the talents of all who want to work.

By taking a proactive approach to help individuals become work-ready, the new program reinforces the unemployment system as short-term support that helps those who want to work find new employment quickly. Less time collecting benefits means less of a draw on the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, and a stronger trust fund means lower unemployment costs for employers.

Please visit dwd.wisconsin.gov/ui201/b7201.htm#drug_testing to learn how you can improve your bottom line by supporting a strong pool of workers who are ready to fill your needs.

Ray Allen is secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.