Milwaukee mayor describes ‘ladder of opportunity’
April 28, 2014
From jsonline.com: “Building a ‘ladder of opportunity’ ” — By Tom Barrett – Too many Milwaukee workers are either unemployed or underemployed, and too many local businesses assert they cannot find the skilled workers they need. City government is committed to doing what it can to connect workers with jobs. The federal government is stepping up, too.
The Obama administration with its American Job Training Investments: Skills and Jobs to Build a Stronger Middle Class announcement earlier this month is making a priority of job training, apprenticeships and partnerships between community colleges and businesses.
Several years ago, I attended a community meeting and listened to frustrated residents say they could not find jobs. On the same day across town, at an event at an employer, I listened as company executives said they had a shortage of qualified workers. This experience led to the development of Milwaukee’s proactive, employer-driven training initiative, the Mayor’s Manufacturing Partnership. Since the launch of the initiative, more than 100 area employers have hired or advanced the skills of more than 800 individuals in the manufacturing industry.
President Barack Obama has highlighted the Milwaukee area’s innovative workforce partnerships in his visits here, and he has engaged in discussions about replenishing the workforce as baby boomers retire. We have a real need to expose more young people to skilled labor trades. The federal investments outlined in the American Job Training Investments announcement will be responsive to these issues and support the current efforts.
In Milwaukee, we are ahead of the curve. Milwaukee’s workforce system, coordinated by the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board, fosters strong relationships among industry, businesses, the technical college system and training organizations to train workers for current job openings. Milwaukee area manufacturers work closely with the technical college system and workforce partners such as the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership to develop employer-driven customized training. As a result, technical college graduates, from schools such as the Milwaukee Area Technical College, are being hired by local manufacturers, many of them with industry certifications, such as Manufacturing Skills Standards Council certification.
Our regional economy is growing and needs skilled workers, from entry-level workers to higher-level workers with specific skills. The commitment outlined in the announcement supports workers who face challenges in upgrading and certifying their skills, as well as middle- and lower-income city residents who have been particularly hard hit by the economy. The investment the White House is making in technical college education and apprenticeships will deliver newly skilled workers and build the pipeline needed for the growing economy, enhancing the efforts of Milwaukee’s forward-thinking business community.
And the timing couldn’t be better.
The City of Milwaukee has developed plans for an advanced manufacturing center at Century City, at the site of the old A.O. Smith industrial site. The center will be operated by a coalition including our technical college, workforce investment board and businesses to train and connect workers with real jobs in modern manufacturing. The Century City location puts this innovative center close to new and existing manufacturers in the 30th Street Industrial Corridor. It will be close to potential workers who are unemployed or underemployed.
Another added benefit is the investment to be made in modern equipment to train advanced manufacturing workers also will be available to companies for prototyping and testing operational improvements. Manufacturing provides a large number of well-paying jobs, with wages 31% higher than the regional average for all workers. Manufacturing is the very heart of our region’s “ladder of opportunity.”
Our goals are aligned. The City of Milwaukee and the business community are working collaboratively with workforce partners to close the mismatch between jobs and workers and to connect the public and private sectors to research and innovation.