By Mrinal Gokhale
Twelve soon to be graduates of a construction apprenticeship program at WRTP/BIG STEP were congratulated by Mayor Tom Barrett on Friday, May 25. The apprentices are going to work on the Milwaukee Bucks arena upon finishing their course and earning their CPR and OSHA certifications.
WTRP/Big Step is a nonprofit organization that provides an apprenticeship readiness program for construction and manufacturing trades. Wall-Tech is a local contractor that has partnered with WTRP/BIG STEP to recruit apprentices for the arena. The North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters is also a partner that provide workforce on the arena.
The press conference took place in the classroom of WRTP/BIG STEP (3841 W. Wisconsin Ave.) after apprentices finished class for the day at 2 p.m. The apprentices sat at their desks in front of camera crews as Mayor Barrett addressed them.
“You are doing the hard work to literally build this city. I think it’s something you can take with you in the next 30 or 40 or 50 years,” said Mayor Barrett. “There are going to be places in this city that you can point to, and you can tell your granddaughter or grandson someday, ‘I helped build that.’”
He highly encouraged City of Milwaukee residents to get involved in construction for both the arena and other projects coming up in the flourishing downtown area.
“I called Alderman Ashanti Hamilton and Willie Wade and said, ‘I need you guys to talk to Bucks and everyone involved here because we have to have assurances that we’re going to have job opportunities for people in our community,’” Barrett said.
Alicia Dupies, Vice President of Social Responsibility of the Milwaukee Bucks stated that Wall-Tech is has partnered with WTRP/BIG STEP in getting apprentices to “work sooner rather than later.” “We saw more than basketball happening in the arena.
We saw downtown and economic development, and we saw jobs,” Dupies said.
Mark Klessenich, CEO of WRTP/ BIG STEP, was also in attendance to congratulate the apprentices. He also thanked all the partners who made the program possible.
“The outcome of this class is that you’re all going to work,” Klessenich said.
The Bucks arena is supposed to open by fall 2018. Tracey Griffith, Director of Construction Initiatives at WTRP/ BIG STEP, said there was strong hope that apprentices would find other construction work in Milwaukee after the arena was complete.
“We recruit Milwaukee residents, and we want a pipeline of new workers in Milwaukee,” Griffith said.