by Dylan Deprey
Where are the jobs?
It was the simple four word question on everybody’s minds. It is the one question that holds so much at stake.
Whether it means sending a healthy child to school or fighting to put food on the table, people throughout the City of Milwaukee are constantly asking, “Where are the jobs?”
The monthly Community Brainstorming panel attempted to answer that question during its Milwaukee Workforce Development and Career Planning forum at the Saint Matthew C.M.E Church on Saturday, September 24.
Milwaukee made headlines over the summer as the city and country witnessed the fires of desperation during the unrest in Sherman Park after the police involved shooting of Sylville Smith.
According to a 2015 National Urban League report, African Americans were at 17.3 percent unemployment in the city of Milwaukee. This percentage was almost double that of national average, and four times more then white unemployment in Milwaukee.
“Milwaukee is at a crossroads right now, we have various issues of civil unrest, but at the same time we have an unprecedented economic development boom that’s happening,” said Tim McMurtry II, the director at the Milwaukee Area Workforce Funding Alliance.
Milwaukee Area Workforce Funding Alliance was created in 2008 to partner with employers to build career opportunities. McMurtry II described workforce development as an interconnected ecosystem that involves spreading employment opportunities, providing the proper training and education for sustainable careers, and economic development.
“The work force development is like a freeway,” McMurtry II said. “The challenge is we have workers and talent that enter the freeway at different levels and skill sets.”
Employ Milwaukee Inc. president and CEO Earl Buford said that Employ Milwaukee has a list of potential employers that are hiring, but there is miscommunication gap between eligible workers and employers.
“One day people are yelling at me like ‘Hey where are the jobs?’” Buford said. “That same day I go to a session with businesses and they’re asking, ‘where are the people?’”
He said that Employ Milwaukee Inc. connects and readies people to the best of their ability for potential jobs whether its working construction to office work. He said that the hardest part was getting people through the door. Recently, Employ Milwaukee has been holding weekly recruitment events at Job Center Access Points across the city to get people into the system and get them connected with the next step in a new career path.
“If we know where the jobs are at, we should go where the people are at and make the connection,” Buford said.
Along with Employ Milwaukee other job resource agencies including the construction training agency One Hope Made Strong (OHMS), Americorp, WRTP Big Step, MATC, Milwaukee Urban League, Milwaukee Youth Services and the Milwaukee Christian Center.
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin was also on the panel, and spoke about her efforts in Washington D.C. Back in July, Sen. Baldwin and Sen. Cory Booker introduced The Stronger Way Act, their attempt to fight poverty in America. The Act creates a new federal partnership to back state and local transitional jobs. It also creates tax reforms to raise incomes for working people and give tax credits to working families with children.
“No one who works full time should be taxed into poverty,” Sen. Baldwin said.
Sen. Baldwin and Sen. Jack Reed also introduced the CTE for ALL Act, which aims to strengthen state programs to offer skill and career building opportunities for working-age adults.
While the detailed map of where the jobs were specifically located across the city was absent, the Community Brainstorming panel ended with a shuffling of phone numbers and business cards.
“We want to put forth the effort to facilitate this, so nobody can say, ‘hey I was desirous of an opportunity and nobody gave it to me.’ We don’t want that to be the case,” McMurtry II said.