Mayor Barrett proposes $13.8M in ARPA funds to tackle workforce issues, boost job training programs

NOW: Mayor Barrett proposes $13.8M in ARPA funds to tackle workforce issues, boost job training programs

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett wants to spend millions toward job readiness programs to help address a workforce shortage.

Barrett is proposing using $13.8 million in federal stimulus aid for a jobs and workforce readiness program. It's part of his Milwaukee Recovery and Resilience Plan to rebound from the pandemic. 

It focuses on skills training, filling clean energy jobs and connecting the unemployed to the technology sector.  

"We know that too many residents in Milwaukee are not connected to jobs that pay well or have opportunities for advancement. With the Milwaukee Recovery Prepare Act, I propose a range of investments that prepares workers," said Barrett. 

The proposals funded in the mayor’s plan include $6 million for the Job Training Project, which will prioritize training for lead abatement certification. This will include high quality work experiences with connections to employers in in-demand fields.

A Skillful Transitions Project will be funded with $3 million in the mayor’s Recovery and Resilience Plan. Through Employ Milwaukee, participants between the ages of 18 and 29 will have supported work experiences that offer knowledge building and translatable job skills.

An additional $2.7 million is designated in the mayor’s plan for a Century City Clean Energy Jobs Project, which will connect residents with jobs in energy, power and other clean jobs.

"Part of this is really opening people's eyes to new positions that are even more critical in our time," said Laura Bray, vice president of college advancement & external communications at Milwaukee Area Technical College. "We're not just trying to find someone a job, but a career path that gets them employed to start working to address the workforce issues."

Other projects in the mayor’s plan include advancing technology employment opportunities and apprenticeships. 

Barrett's employment recovery plan will have to be approved by the Milwaukee Common Council. Public hearings on the proposal will be held over the new few weeks, Barrett said. 

Milwaukee is not the only city looking to use federal aid to address a worker shortage. Madison's Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway announced $1.2 million in ARPA funds for youth employment programs to help the younger generation prepare for the workforce.

"It's not just for employment, but for engagement as we come out of the pandemic, to make sure they can really contribute to our community," said Rhodes-Conway. 

Efforts to invest in job recruitment efforts is a trend emerging from the pandemic after thousands lost their jobs and applied for unemployment. 

The worker shortage is an area Republican lawmakers have urged Gov. Tony Evers to address by asking him to eliminate a weekly unemployment bonus they believe would encourage more people to go back to work.

It's a bill Evers vetoed because he opposes removing the state's participation from a federal program that gives an extra $300 a week to the unemployed. Evers has said there's not enough data to prove the enhanced benefits are causing a workforce shortage. 

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