Bader Philanthropies adds funds to ‘Compete Milwaukee’

Milwaukee-based Bader Philanthropies Inc. has committed a two-year $250,000 grant to the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board as the board revises its approach to connecting employers and jobseekers through a strategy known as “Compete Milwaukee.”

That branded strategy, a collaborative effort among MAWIB, the City of Milwaukee, United Migrant Opportunity Services and the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, addresses the workforce development needs of area employers according to the changing economic conditions and climate of Milwaukee, said Earl Buford, MAWIB’s president and chief executive officer.

The strategy shifts MAWIB’s focus to a “business-led” model, emphasizing the input of business leaders “to more accurately address the workforce demands of employers in key industry sectors,” said Jerry Roberts, a Bader Philanthropies’ program officer.

Those key sectors currently include manufacturing, health care, financial services, construction, and retail and hospitality.

Compete Milwaukee’s infrastructure consists of five core action areas, among them the development of five industry advisory boards that are tapping the expertise of area employers so that MAWIB can better gauge the kinds of jobs available in the region, the volume of jobs available and their required skillsets.

The advisory boards, which align with the five key sectors the entire Compete Milwaukee strategy is tackling, are comprised of “high profile” executives and experts from each industry, Buford said.

Compete Milwaukee also includes a job scan initiative in which MAWIB is aggregating available jobs in Milwaukee’s public and private sector so that it can have “real time information” on jobs open for candidates who can be trained to fill them, according to Buford.

The strategy’s third arm centers on growing the number of transitional jobs available to job seekers who need to build a foundation for a long-term career. Together, MAWIB and the City of Milwaukee aim to fund at least 135 transitional jobs, including 115 positions across city departments and 20 positions with the Milwaukee Police Department, according to Buford.

The subsidized positions will allow workers in Milwaukee to support themselves and their families while looking for unsubsidized work, Roberts said.

Additionally, Compete Milwaukee is anchored by a career case management program and a general push to foster strong collaboration among city agencies.

While the case management program will counsel workers who have succeeded in transitional jobs as they seek a pathway to a more sustainable career, according to Buford, Roberts said the collaboration element will coordinate services among area agencies and create “a more robust and better system” for linking job seekers and industry needs.

As MAWIB puts each part of Compete Milwaukee into action, Buford said he believes the strategy can be a “driving force” for workforce needs across the greater Milwaukee area and can also be flexible enough to adapt to those needs as they evolve.

The cross-sector strategy also reflects Bader Philanthropies’ priority to stimulate job creation in the region, grow key industries, and support individual workers with job preparation.

“This Compete Milwaukee initiative helps to put all of those things in place,” Roberts said.

Investments for Compete Milwaukee total about $2.1 million, according to Buford, and are supported by a pool of funders that includes the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families in addition to the City of Milwaukee and Bader Philanthropies.

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