By Karen Stokes
The key to well-paying jobs for residents in the city of Milwaukee is transportation. The majority of Industrial and manufacturing jobs are located beyond city of Milwaukee limits and the lack of transportation is a major setback for gainful employment to those who reside in urban Milwaukee.
On Saturday, during the monthly Community Brainstorming session at St. Matthew CME Church, Milwaukee residents and a panel of community leaders and elected officials discussed the JobLines bus routes 6 and 61 to connect Milwaukee residents with jobs at more than 150 employers in Waukesha and Washington counties.
“I am pleased that JobLines is here and providing transportation,” said Cavalier Johnson, 2nd District Alderman. “My district relies on public transportation, we need access to reliable transportation options.”
JobLines—Routes 6 and 61—is a joint initiative among MCTS, BHCW (Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin) and MICAH (Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope).
In a press release from MCTS, JobLines bus routes are current solutions, but they are temporary due to limited funding. It is imperative to increase public and political support to make these routes permanent to ensure the survival of the Milwaukee community.
The most recent data reports that there are 8,111 jobs in the 2nd District and there are 15,522 workers in the district, according to Johnson.
“Less than 10 percent of the jobs in the district we’re taken by people who actually lived in the district,” said Johnson. “Ninety-five percent of the residents work outside of the district.”
According to MTCS, every day, nearly 1,000 riders use JobLines to take them from the heart of Milwaukee to Waukesha and Washington Counties for jobs.
In 2014, the JobLines project received a $13 million grant, but need more to continue the project on a long term or permanent basis.
“Two and a half years later we’re still trying to get people on these buses,” said Rev Willie Brisco, president of MICAH.
“I encourage people to look at the employers out there and realize there’s an opportunity. We have to begin to expand our horizons. In 2018, these bus routes are going to end.”
The need for transportation has increased due to the lack of manufacturing opportunities in the city, but also manufacturing has changed.
Automation is vastly becoming a major part of manufacturing and the workforce needs not only transportation, but also the education and a technological skill set to be able to earn and retain these jobs.
“We have to use every resource we have,” said Paul Decker, Waukesha County Board Supervisor. “I believe in the greater community. With MATC, WCTC and Gateway, we have the finest technical college resources in the world.”
Decker explained because of automation people are needed to maintain the equipment and program the equipment. The businesses in the suburban industrial parks need workers, and they are desperate.
“You have to take advantage of the JobLines routes, you have to take advantage of the Joseph Project, you have to take advantage of going where the jobs are,” Decker said.
“We can’t keep thinking as though it was yesterday,” said Decker. “We’re preparing for tomorrow because we’re in a global competition.”