By Mrinal Gokhale
The Milwaukee Bucks arena reconstruction has created many jobs for residents of Milwaukee. On Tuesday, May 9, Alderwoman Chantia Lewis teamed up with the Bucks for a Workforce Development Jobs Town Hall Session at Northwest YWCA (9050 N. Swan Blvd.). This networking and career fair was held in the heart of District 9, which Lewis represents.
Starting at about 5 p.m., the room was filled by local employers like Wescare, Kiewit, City of Milwaukee, Employ Milwaukee, Northcott Neighborhood House and Froedert Hospital. Attendees had a chance to network with employers before hearing from Alderwoman Lewis. Job opportunities ranged from healthcare, manufacturing, construction and Information Technology.
Alderman Ashanti Hamilton attended, who is the president of the Milwaukee Common Council. He introduced Alderwoman Lewis as the newest Common Council member.
“Milwaukee is in the middle of a renaissance, and we want to make sure your hands helped build it,” he said.
Alderwoman Lewis said that the Bucks arena so far includes three or four projects that she encourages people to apply for. Once the projects end, she said employees will have skills needed to gain meaningful employment afterward.
“The Bucks arena will be beautiful,” she said. “Many more projects are coming behind the arena. The 9th District will have a renaissance shortly after. You can work downtown and close to home.”
To encourage young people to pursue the building-trades field, the Bucks have created a pre-apprenticeship program for high school and technical college students to work on the arena. Up to 200 individuals will receive a stipend payment for taking part in the arena.
Alex Lasry, Senior Vice President of the Milwaukee Bucks, introduced the SkillsSmart online job portal to the crowd. He said that anyone who enters uses SkillsSmart will be either placed for employment with the Bucks or within a training program to prepare for the job. The job portal advertises construction jobs as well as openings in other fields throughout Wisconsin.
“This is not just development that’s big for downtown. It will spread to every community in Milwaukee, and we’re coming to the community to talk to you guys,” he said. “We could just do a big town hall by the Bucks where you come to us, but we want to come to you instead.”
Anthony Thomas was previously a construction contractor who worked on the Northwestern Mutual downtown skyscraper, which took two years to construct. He told the crowd that not too long after he was laid off, he attended a Bucks town hall meeting and became employed again quickly thereafter.
“On my way home, I came past the Bucks arena, went inside and met Alex,” he said. “I was told about the town hall meeting. I went there with my buddies, and we did not leave until we sold ourselves.”
Another construction contractor who addressed the crowd said that a December Bucks town hall meeting helped him find employment too. He feels that he has “lived the dream.”
“I went to the town hall meeting on the 23rd, took my test on the 25th, had an interview on the 29th and I got into the Bucks arena on the 9th. So I am living the dream,” he said.
Lasry then showed attendees how to sign up for SkillsSmart. Additionally, attendees had a chance to sign up for Milwaukee’s Residential Preference Program, which helps underemployed and unemployed citizens of Milwaukee find employment.