Secretary, Department of Workforce Development, State of Wisconsin

By Sara Woelfel
Photos by Ethan Schuh

 

The long impersonal corridor leading to Ray Allen’s office is a stark contrast to the bright, cheerful and personalized space where Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development secretary directs 1,600 employees, six divisions and 26 full-service job centers throughout the state. Humble about the work he’s done in several state agencies in his 30 years working under four governors, Allen thinks back on his career and marvels at a journey he never could have anticipated.

“When you’re young, you don’t know what the rest of your life is going to look like, because you don’t know what doors will open,” Allen said. "So I never would have told you when I was 18 that I thought I’d be running state agencies or creating public policies or doing some of the things I did because that wasn’t the career track that I envisioned.”

Today, he taps all those experiences as he focuses not only on the Worker’s Compensation, unemployment insurance, equal rights, and other services offered by his agency, but on the ways the Department of Workforce Development can help people find family-sustaining jobs,support veterans when they return home, encourage men and women with disabilities to join the workforce, provide skills training through the state correctional facilities, and create apprenticeship programs for youth and adults.

“Every day I wake up and I thank God,” Allen said. “It’s just been such a rewarding experience because I get to do all these wonderful things that affect people’s lives and make a difference.”