Employ Milwaukee part of $6 million training grant

Award to help workforce development in Midwest

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A group led by Employ Milwaukee will receive a $6 million America’s Promise grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced Thursday.

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The grant was awarded to Employ Milwaukee and Midwest Urban Strategies, an alliance of 11 urban Midwest workforce boards, and is intended to help them grow their workforce development programs. Seven of the cities – Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, Minneapolis, Gary, Detroit, Cincinnati and Milwaukee – are receiving money through the grant.

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Specifically, the funding will go towards a project that will train more than 1,430 individuals for middle- to-high-skilled jobs, coordinate regional planning to attract and retain businesses and talent, and integrate efforts to fully maximize federal, state and local funds to build a regional workforce system.

Each city has its own job targets, including 300 for Employ Milwaukee.

“America’s Promise strengthens the consortium of urban Midwest workforce boards and their collaborative planning efforts to attract and retain businesses and talent to grow the regional economy,” said Earl Buford, Employ Milwaukee President and chief executive officer. “It is our ‘promise’ to expand regional partnerships to provide a pipeline of workers to fill existing job openings, meet business needs for expansion, and fuel the talent needs of entrepreneurs.”

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Buford stressed that the grant is aimed at helping people move from entry-level positions to ones that require more skill.

“It’s an upward mobility situation,” he said. “That’s a missing piece in workforce (development).”

Employ Milwaukee has already identified some companies to work in training employees, drawing from its advisory boards.

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The grant was one of 23 awarded by the department worth more than $111 million in total. The $6 million award was the largest given out. Seven other recipients received that amount.

Each grant requires a partnership that includes industry leaders, senior level leadership from workforce and economic development organizations, secondary and post-secondary education institutions, elected officials, and other important community stakeholders. Grantees will focus on in-demand industries such as information technology, health care, advanced manufacturing, financial services and educational services.

Buford and Employ Milwaukee are leading the efforts of Midwest Urban Strategies. He said the consortium brings together workforce boards in a number of cities that face similar challenges, allowing them to share best practices. It also allows the cities to work together in pursuing grants at the federal level.

The America’s Promise grant is the third grant the consortium has landed. In September 2015 the organization received an American Apprenticeship grant and in June received a TechHire award.

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