Everything I know today I learned in…my first job?

    Think back to your very first job. No matter what it was – delivering newspapers, washing dishes, answering phones and filing papers or stocking the grocery aisles – there’s a common denominator in all of our first work experiences. We learned some pretty important lessons (probably the hard way) about punching the clock, working a full shift, following a dress code and interacting with our managers and peers. 

    Today’s young people need to learn these same lessons. They are a rite of passage into the working world. But as the economy has weakened, the labor market has deteriorated for job seekers at every level, leaving the youth population especially affected. However, the Milwaukee 7 region has the opportunity to change this reality for our young people this summer. The three workforce development boards serving the seven-county region have each been awarded expanded funding through the federal Workforce Investment Act to administer large-scale youth job programs this summer.

    Groups across the Milwaukee 7 region are collaborating to attract businesses and industries to the area, and a pipeline of talent to fill the jobs that new companies will bring here is a critical piece of the puzzle. Youth job programs are one important part of the solution when it comes to talent development.

    Across the region, the workforce boards have committed to employing over 1,400 youth between the ages of 16 and 24 this summer. That’s 1,400 young people who otherwise would not be able to find jobs this summer and who will be taught the skills needed to succeed in a workplace.

    Employers who come on board as job sites can also win from this program. Because of the federal resources that have been dedicated to these programs, the workforce boards can offer benefits, including subsidized wages, depending on employer eligibility. Workers’ compensation insurance may also be covered. Employers can gain some extra hands and feet this summer to assist with needed projects, with very little direct expense to the organization. Additionally, youth participants will complete a training session to help prepare for the work environment before going through the application and hiring process at a job site, and the program coordinators work hard to match employers with compatible youth.

    The significance of the jobs program goes beyond just helping kids make some money this summer. The program provides young people the chance to gain valuable, on-the-job experience that will be carried into future employment and careers. For the business community, the summer jobs program is an opportunity for employers to shape the talent pipeline while getting some needed work done at their locations. 

    Despite the overwhelming challenges companies are facing today, the tides will turn and market conditions will improve. And when they do, companies will begin to rebuild and prosper. But without a capable workforce, our communities will not be able to sustain their recoveries over the long-term. Today’s youth are tomorrow’s talent pool, and the time to act and prepare is now. 

    I encourage business leaders across the region to step up and get on board with their local program. For more information on the youth jobs program offered in your area, please contact your county’s program coordinator:

    Milwaukee County
    Andrea Rowe Richards
    (414) 286-8580

    Waukesha – Ozaukee – Washington Counties
    Staci Eggert-Dziedzic
    (262) 695-7882

    Walworth County
    Marilyn Putz
    (262) 741-5180

    Racine County
    Mark Gesner

    Kenosha County
    John Milisauskas
    (262) 697-4586

    Mike Mortell, Regional Workforce Alliance (RWA) / Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) coordinator

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