Winners Announced for Inaugural Wisconsin Job Honor Awards

Meta House is proud to partner with award winner, STEP Industries, who helps to empower several of our clients each year with job training and employment opportunities.


Initiative aims to employ disadvantaged jobseekers by celebrating “A New Kind of Hero” 

MADISON, WI — The Wisconsin Job Honor Awards, a new initiative aimed at recognizing Wisconsinites who have overcome significant barriers to employment, has announced its top honorees for 2016.

Nominations were submitted via the organization’s website and judged by a statewide panel. The awards were presented by Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch during the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) Talent Conference on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 in Madison. Nearly 200 Wisconsin business leaders assembled to witness the ceremony, in which biographical videos described honoree efforts to win life-changing jobs.

“I applaud these honorees and all our citizens who are working hard to overcome barriers to achieve the dignity of work,” said Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, “Rather than letting the past dictate their future, these individuals are proving that prosperity is possible when you work hard, stay focused, and keep hoping.”

One such honoree is Jason B. Wright Sr. of Green Bay. Growing up in inner-city Chicago, Wright’s dreams of a football career ended when a bullet shattered his leg in a drive-by shooting. Wright plunged into depression and drug abuse and was later sentenced to prison for selling drugs. Several years later his life abruptly changed when he visited Ariens Company in Brillion under a prison work release program. “I immediately had a new addiction,” recalls Wright, “and it was to provide for my family.” Released from prison and now working at Ariens full-time, Wright was recently promoted to production trainer and his future is bright. “Ariens truly saved my life,” affirms Wright, “I don’t know where I would have been if they hadn’t given me a second chance.”

Sharing employee honors is Mitchell Matthiesen of Suamico. Diagnosed with autism, anxiety and 100% blindness, Mitchell’s barriers to employment made it unlikely he’d ever succeed in an integrated employment setting. Defying the odds, Mitchell is now a grocery bagger at Olsen’s Piggly Wiggly in Green Bay where he’s been employed more than three years. Relying on his highly-developed sense of touch and smell, he sorts and bags items so efficiently that most customers have no idea he’s blind. Mitchell’s manager Mary Anne Olsen observes “The customers love him. He’s basically a perfect associate.” Mitchell enjoys his job, enthusing “Having a job there is really good! You get to meet new people, and customers often come up to thank me for bagging.”

Wright and Matthiesen each received a $500 cash award and engraved crystal award.

In the employer category, Ultratec in Madison and STEP Industries of Neenah and Milwaukee were honored for their commitment to hire disadvantaged candidates, including people with developmental disabilities, past criminal convictions and histories of addiction. “If you will see them as individuals who can be gainfully employed, you’ll get a great return,” explains Ultratec’s LiliAnne Carey, “All you have to do is open your heart.” Michelle Devine Giese, President of STEP Industries, echoes that observation: “People who have struggled and overcome something are a lot stronger than people who have not had to overcome something. They can become the best workers you’ve seen.”

In the past 30 years, STEP Industries has served more than 10,000 men and women in recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. Devine Giese explains “We teach them everything they need to know to be successful at the job: How to work with a team, how to communicate with others, how to dress, how to talk.” More than 90% of STEP’s operating expenses are covered by revenues from their contract packaging and assembly services.

“We honor these employers who were willing to think outside the box and offer opportunity to more folks,” observed Lt. Governor Kleefisch, “Working together as government, employers, and workers, we can ensure every Wisconsinite who wants a job can find a job.”

Lead sponsor of the Wisconsin Job Honor Awards is Milwaukee-based ManpowerGroup. Sponsors for the February 23 celebration included Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and event host WMC Foundation. “WMC is proud to sponsor the Wisconsin Job Honor Awards to shine a light on people and companies doing extraordinary things,” said Kurt R. Bauer, WMC President/CEO. “There are many similar scenarios from companies across the Badger State, and we are honored to help tell those stories.”

About the Wisconsin Job Honor Awards:

The Wisconsin Job Honor Awards celebrates Wisconsinites who have overcome significant barriers to employment, and the employers who hire them. WJHA’s mission is to rekindle hope and energize the work ethic across Wisconsin, through the celebration of a new kind of hero. 2016 Honoree videos can be viewed at

Lead sponsor of the Awards is ManpowerGroup, world leader in innovative workforce solutions.

About ManpowerGroup

ManpowerGroup® (NYSE: MAN) is the world’s workforce expert, creating innovative workforce solutions for more than 65 years. As workforce experts, we connect more than 600,000 people to meaningful work across a wide range of skills and industries every day. Through our ManpowerGroup family of brands – Manpower®, Experis®, Right Management ® and ManpowerGroup® Solutions – we help more than 400,000 clients in 80 countries and territories address their critical talent needs, providing comprehensive solutions to resource, manage and develop talent. In 2015, ManpowerGroup was named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for the fifth consecutive year and one of Fortune’s Most Admired Companies, confirming our position as the most trusted and admired brand in the industry. See how ManpowerGroup makes powering the world of work humanly possible:


About WMC

Founded in 1911, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) is the state’s chamber of commerce and largest business trade association representing more than 3,700 employers of every size and from every sector of the economy. The WMC Foundation is an integral part of WMC and is dedicated to building a better future for Wisconsin by providing business and economics education, workforce development initiatives, local chambers of commerce support, safety training programs and sharing business best practices.




Kyle Horn, Founder & Director

America’s Job Honor Awards

mobile: (515) 231-6039



Twitter: @jobhonor