$2 million federal investment to help address labor shortages in Milwaukee

NOW: $2 million federal investment to help address labor shortages in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Millions in federal dollars will go to addressing the labor shortage in Milwaukee. While this investment will help one industry in particular, officials say there's still much work to be done.

Despite historically low unemployment rates in Wisconsin, many industries are still struggling to hire workers across the state.
Lawmakers and city leaders are working to change that.

One of many industries focused on hiring efforts is Milwaukee Water Works. "The Water Works delivers clean, safe water to nearly 9,000 people on a daily basis," said Patrick Pauly, interim superintendent for Water Works.

Pauly says they are struggling to maintain staffing levels. "This has been ongoing since before the pandemic," he said.

A $2 million federal investment will help address these issues. The money will be used for employment and job training services through Employ Milwaukee in partnership with Milwaukee Water Works.

"It will provide the perfect scenario for seeing more young people be properly prepared to take advantage of the opportunities for good careers," said Chytania Brown, president & CEO at Employ Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Senator Tammy Baldwin gathered during a press conference Tuesday to highlight the investment and the need for it. "We can add to the ranks of workers who are keeping our infrastructure operating right here in the city. We can employ workers who will replace lead service lines in Milwaukee, which we all know is a needed thing," said Mayor Johnson.

Tackling worker shortages across all industries remains the goal.

"At the federal level it's about continuing to address the obstacles for people going back to work...in my mind that involves focusing on child care," said Sen. Baldwin.

Dennis Winters is the chief economist for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and says fewer people are looking for work right now.

Winters says it's a growing challenge and has been even before the pandemic.

"Wisconsin is looking at a record low unemployment rate, 2.8% the last couple months, and that's indicative of the relative lack of growth in our labor force against the fast growth in adding jobs," he said.

It's a problem Winters says won't be solved anytime soon as more people enter retirement.

Officials say bringing more people into the workforce also means addressing affordable housing and transportation along with child care. Also, providing more opportunities for people with disabilities. The DWD has programs geared towards these focuses.

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