By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
For some time now, Milwaukee has been considered a city on the rise and a place where the unemployed can find a job. In 2014, however, Manpower Group discovered that employers throughout the metropolitan area didn’t believe that residents were “job ready.”
Disheartened by this revelation, YWCA conducted a report in 2016 called the Community Readiness Assessment (CRA). The report examined five sectors to determine what barriers and obstacles potential employees faced: construction, healthcare, financial services, hospitality and manufacturing.
They also spoke with viable candidates to examine what they believed held them back.
Jamaal Smith works as the Racial Justice Community Engagement Manager for YWCA, and he explained how someone can be considered “job ready.”
“It’s based on hard skills and soft skills,” he said. While hard skills can be obtained in school or on the job, soft skills come from practice.
According to Smith, programs exist at places like the YWCA to help people develop a “soft-skills” skill set. He also added that while sometimes employees lack the soft-skills in some cases, so do the employers.
One way to change this, he said is to shift the focus onto the employers and open the communication. He also said it’s important to look at someone’s background for which he gave an example.
Maybe someone appears to have a problem with punctuality, but really, it’s not that they’re irresponsible it’s that they have unreliable transportation, or they had to drop their kids off at daycare. Whatever the case is, by opening a line of communication the employer and employee can establish an understanding.
The CRA discovered that employers in Milwaukee are lacking when it comes to offering on-the-job training. While the core schools in M3 (MATC, MPS and UWM) are implementing programs and curriculum to ensure students are ready for the workforce, there needs to be more done at the workplace, Smith said.
Part of the report included examining certain companies and grading them on a level from one to nine on their awareness based on “the attitudes, knowledge, efforts and activities, and resources available in the community for addressing an issue,” according to the report.
With level one at “no awareness” and level nine at “high level of community ownership,” places in Milwaukee scored around level three.
In other words, while employers yearn to fill the vacancies they need to become more in tune with the community. YWCA wants to help employers learn how to do this by helping them examine their own outreach strategies, recruitment, hiring and retention.
By doing this, they shift the responsibility from the employees to the employers.
As part of examining their practices, YWCA is encouraging employers to look at the racial disparity in their companies and the CRA is helping them do that.
“We’re not just telling you there’s racial disparity,” Smith said, “here’s the proof behind our stance.”
The report concluded with a list of goals for 2017, which Smith said they “absolutely achieved.” Going into 2018, they’re continuing to examine the five sectors and source out issues. Currently, they are looking into the healthcare sector which includes evaluating their hiring practices.
“There are great efforts going forward,” he said, “however, we need employees to recognize this as well.”
The report examined how both employers and employees can create a better workplace environment.