Workforce Investment Board releases Five Year Report

Demonstrating shift has led to greater employer participation, more people served and more partners

Thelma Sias, vice chair of MAWIB Board of Directors and vice president of Local Affairs for WE Energies spoke on ‘The Process of Transformation’ regarding the report. (Bell Photo)

This week, the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board (MAWIB) released the organization’s Five Year Report, highlighting changes and progress since the creation of MAWIB. MAWIB, previously the Private Industry Council, began operating as Milwaukee’s backbone workforce organization in July of 2007.

Since the shift to MAWIB, six major recommendations made to Mayor Tom Barrett and implemented by longtime workforce champion Donald Sykes have resulted in greater employer participation in workforce development, more than twice as many jobseekers being served annually, and a significant increase in contracted community partners. The result is one in six City of Milwaukee jobseekers are currently receiving training and employment services.

“Workforce development is a critical issue for Milwaukee,” said Mayor Tom Barrett. “I want to ensure each program and initiative is having the greatest possible impact with helping Milwaukee jobseekers find family-supporting jobs and employers finding workers. MAWIB’s leadership has created a collaborative environment which is productively addressing our significant workforce issues.”

The Milwaukee community has greatly benefited from workforce partners working closely with employers to create individualized training programs preparing jobseekers to fill specific openings. This is in part accomplished through sector-based strategies focusing on industries with the greatest needs for qualified workers. The result is employers participating in the process to shrink the talent mismatch/skills gap.

Further evidence of the positive impact MAWIB is having includes a dramatic increase in jobseekers served annually from approximately 4,400 five years ago to over 10,000 last year. Also, the number of contracted community partners has increased from 19 to a high of 72, which demonstrates MAWIB’s success as a coordinating entity.

Wallace White, member of the MAWIB Board of Directors and Donald Sykes, president/CEO of MAWIB spoke at the event. (Bell Photo)

“By implementing the six initial recommendations, we went from being a direct service provider to creating a collaborative environment with all of the workforce stakeholders,” says Donald Sykes, president/CEO, MAWIB. “As a result, more workforce funds have been invested into the community and more programs are being implemented, while the size of our staff has remained unchanged. We are doing more with less.”

With the transformation to MAWIB, the service area remained the same, Milwaukee County, and Mayor Tom Barrett is now the Chief Local Elected Official. This close relationship to city government is beneficial in collaboratively implementing a wide range of programs and initiatives, from Mayor Barrett’s Earn & Learn Youth Employment program to the Mayor’s Manufacturing Partnership.

“I’m truly impressed with the workforce development transformation that has taken place over the past five years,” says John Kissinger, President and CEO, GRAEF, and MAWIB, Chairman of the Board. “Given the economic climate and dwindling resources, MAWIB has been able to offer successful solutions for employers.”

The six recommendations which have been implemented since the creation of MAWIB are:

1. Establish a City of Milwaukee Workforce Investment Board (WIB) to receive existing state and federal resources, develop additional governmental resources, and contract and monitor service delivery.

2. Establish in the Mayor’s office an Office of Workforce Development to provide leadership in the City of Milwaukee and collaborative regional development efforts.

3. Convene, support and guide a Coordinating Team comprised of employment, training and economic development organizations that, under the guidance and with the support of the WIB, will coordinate institutional support and service delivery.

4. Organize community based organizations (CBOs) into a working coalition of pre-employment and support services for the entire workforce development system to address the special needs of new job entrants and those who are pursuing additional skills for career enhancement.

5. Put into place intermediary specialty organizations with the responsibility to coordinate all employment and training efforts in various industry sectors. A construction intermediary is in place and establishing a healthcare intermediary is a priority. Additional intermediaries for manufacturing, finance, and hospitality will be developed.

6. Establish a Mayor’s Advisory Group, comprised of business and other community leaders, to provide overall strategic direction to workforce development efforts.