By Dylan Deprey
There were no actual scissors involved in the ribbon cutting ceremony of the Milwaukee TechForce Training Center grand opening. All it took was a series of tablets and one finger swipe to properly inaugurate the Center.
The grand opening for the Milwaukee TechForce Training Center brought all of its partners together to open the doors of the state-of-the art facility on Tuesday, May 23, 2016.
“This TechForce Training Center has the potential to transform lives through bridging the technological divide,” Herb Hayden, Adult Learning Center executive director, said.
The education and training center was the result of the partnership between the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM), the Adult Learning Center (ALC), Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), and Employ Milwaukee.
The Center was created under the 2015 White House TechHire Initiative. It was enacted to train workers for high demand jobs in the technology field.
Milwaukee was labeled a third wave “Tech Hire City” in March. Through the effort of the Center, it will support in educating the community.
The program plans to train and position around 150 people into tech jobs by 2017 and around 600 by 2020.
The Center sits across the street from St. Francis of Assisi Parish in the Halyard Park neighborhood. It opened in 1926 as the St. Francis Social Center, which housed a bowling alley, gymnasium, and cafeteria. They have replaced high-speed bowling balls for high speed Internet.
Archbishop of Milwaukee Jerome Listecki blessed the building and spoke about spreading the knowledge of technology through the community.
“This is the age of information,” Listecki said. “When people are denied the ability to access information, they are made powerless in our society.”
The $1.2 million dollar facility was developed by HACM and funded by a grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Robert Cherry is the director of youth service division at Employ Milwaukee.
“These are all good family sustaining jobs,” Cherry said.
Jobs range from web development to network administration. While some of the overflowing job descriptions ask for bachelors and masters degrees, some only ask for program certification. “Coding Bootcamps” as well as many other programs will take place at the TechForce Training Center.
“No matter what industry you are in, you are going to need IT people,” Cherry said.
The TechForce Training Center is co-located with the Adult Learning Center to put those in the adult education program on the fast track to technology-based programs at MATC and with other partners.
“What we are seeing is an explosion in the field of IT,” MATC President Dr. Vicki Martin said.
Martin also noted that the field of cyber security has gone up 91 percent in the last year. This has created even more jobs in the field of IT.
The ALC trains about 250 students per year through its adult basic education program.
One of these students was Ann Perry. She is a 49-years-old single mother who has been drug-free for 16 years. After dropping out of school in the eighth grade and making her way in and out of correctional institutions, she wanted a change.
She finally received her GED through the ALC’s program and will attend MATC next fall. She then plans to transfer to a four-year college and major in social work to help others stray from the path she was on.
“When you are out of school for such a long time, you have to get back into the swing of things,” Perry said. “You can’t make excuses; you have to want to be here.”
Although adult education was at the forefront, the Center will be a packed house once summer vacation starts. Around 200 children from the Earn and Learn program will fill the seats of the computers.