7 Rivers Workforce Development Plan

The Workforce Innovation for a Strong Economy (WISE) Plan is the culmination of a nearly yearlong effort to understand and address the workforce preparation, retention and recruitment challenges faced by businesses and communities across the 7 Rivers Alliance Region.Through a series of interviews, working group sessions, subject matter forums and significant economic research, the WISE Plan workforce gap analysis revealed that the 7 Rivers Region needs to attract and retain 1,500-2,000 more workers each year during the next decade to keep up with employer demand. This is a daunting challenge, but the WISE Talent Plan outlines strategies for tackling these issues, and identifies champions who can lead efforts to improve Talent Preparation, Recruitment, and Retention prospects throughout the region.

The reg18902682_1550247758328419_1665661079_nion covers 14 counties across Southwest Wisconsin, Southeast Minnesota, and Northeast Iowa, a predominantly rural area with two urban centers in La Crosse, WI and Winona, MN. For the purposes of this study, we included Pierce County in Wisconsin and Fayette County in Iowa. The development of the WISE Plan included involvement from more than 500 business and community leaders during 28 small group interviews, three talent working group sessions, six subject matter forums, four Steering Committee working sessions and research.

The WISE Plan focuses on three areas for action: Talent Preparation, Talent Retention and Talent Recruitment. Interwoven throughout the WISE Plan are strategies designed to address critical workforce impediments related to housing, transportation and childcare.

Talent Preparation

Talent Preparation strategies include programs and activities that build stronger connections between the region’s students and business and industry, and inform and educate guidance/career counselors and other influencing adults about the opportunities that exist within the region. This is where the INSPIRE program ties into our strategies for the WISE plan.

Talent Recruitment

Talent Recruitment strategies include marketing the region and its assets to well-defined targets, sharing stories and messages of success and inclusion, and ensuring that new families are welcomed and supported upon arrival.

Talent Retention

Talent Retention strategies include collecting and sharing best practices with the region’s employers that support and enhance the experiences of their current employees. Worker retention might occur by reducing the out-migration, but it may be even more important to slow the rate of retirements over time to allow the economy to adjust.For a full version of The WISE plan, click here 

For a summary version of The WISE plan, click here

The WISE Plan highlights the key challenges regarding the workforce, including:

Declining population and aging workforce

Misguided perceptions about employment opportunities in the region

Mismatch of skills between what is being produced by region’s post-secondary institutions and the needs of local employers

Lack of diversity within the region

Out migration and out-commuting

Limited childcare options and affordability

Competition from nearby employment centers

The WISE Plan addresses these challenges through strategies and actions to achieve the following goals:

Increase student and worker employ-ability skills

Educate students, educators, parents, and other community members about the educational requirements for high paying, in-demand careers

Prepare incumbent workers and mature job seekers to have greater flexibility in the workplace

Promote the 7 Rivers Region to targeted groups about the region’s benefits

Foster inclusive regional communities to better attract minority and underrepresented individuals

Provide businesses and job seekers with comparative economic information

Ensure the availability of affordable housing for the region’s workforce

Provide information and tools that help companies prepare for pending retirements

Develop public-private childcare partnerships to increase childcare facility capacity and address affordability gaps

Bolster more connections and relationships between currently enrolled students, regional employers, and local communities

Improve transit, ride-sharing, and multi-modal transportation options, and make transportation system more accessible


Ultimately, the success of the WISE Plan depends on implementation of the strategies and actions put forth in this plan.  True progress can only be achieved when a diverse set of local partners coalesce around a shared vision and clear goals. The ambitious, comprehensive nature of the WISE Plan requires a concerted effort across many organizations in the public and private sectors. Guided by the 7 Rivers Alliance, champion organizations from all areas of local life must be engaged throughout the plan’s implementation. Moving forward, work should focus on advancing the strategies identified in this plan.

For more information about The WISE plan, please contact 7 Rivers Alliance Chris Hardie chris@7riversalliance.org or 608.787.8777

WISE Gap Analysis

This analysis pinpoints key talent needs of targeted WISE region industries. The purpose is to identify gaps in the region’s talent pool and aid educators and trainers in aligning and targeting their resources for the needs of these industries.

Click here to view WISE Gap Analysis

Below are several sources to address the WISE Gap Analysis:

Cardinal Manufacturing

Future Careers


Information and Registration Link 

Trailing Spouse Concierge Service 

Employee Profit Sharing

Fox Cities Talent Upload

 Talent Upload Video 

Innovative Flex Scheduling Models 

Talent Sharing Companies

ManpowerGroup Employement Outlook Survey 

Family Friendly Workplace

First Five Years Video

CREC WISE Presentation

WISE Partner



WISE in the News

Congresswoman Maloney’s Statement

May 22, 2019


childcare summit

Childcare summit addresses needs

March 21, 2017


Image result for Consultants help local employers prepare for future workforce

Consultants help local employers prepare for future workforce

February 15, 2017


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Nationally renowned economic consultants hired to help with 7 Rivers WISE plan

January 30, 2017



Workforce development focus of LADCO forum 

October 14, 2016



7 Rivers Alliance planning for the next decade of workforce development 

October 3, 2016