Job Corps Center will change lives

Construction on the Milwaukee Job Corps Center site, which began just over a year ago, is on schedule to be completed this summer.

The eight-building campus is located on a 25-acre lot on North 60th Street and West Green Tree Road. Neenah-based Miron Construction is building the center that was designed by Milwaukee-based Continuum Architects + Planning.

“As it stands today, all eight buildings are completely enclosed, and we expect substantial completion by early June,” said Klaus Lemke, vice president of Miron Construction’s Milwaukee operations. “The only major activities left are site concrete, paving the sidewalks and landscaping, and we expect that to begin in the next three weeks.”

According to Lemke, the project will be completed on time and on budget, and while the buildings aren’t being built for LEED certification, they will have many components that help reduce energy costs and save money, Lemke said.

The center is a U.S. Department of Labor vocational job training program that serves low-income youth, ages 16 to 24. Youth at the Job Corps Center attend year-round and live on the campus. Students are expected to begin school in the fall of 2010.

The project will likely cost more than $30 million, said Tony Perez, secretary-executive director of the City of Milwaukee Housing Authority.

“The Job Corps program is one of those programs that have survived typical politics,” Perez said. “It doesn’t matter where the Congressional control lies, this program is the single largest allocation for youth vocational training that the federal government appropriates, and it’s because of its proven success.”

In addition to paying the costs of the upfront construction of the project, the federal government also appropriates regular maintenance costs for the center, Perez said.


“When the Job Corps Centers originally began being built, there was some thought that if you remove the students from outside distractions, they stood a better chance of succeeding,” Perez said. “But over the years, and particularly when we were petitioning for the Milwaukee Center to be built, we knew there would be some benefit in providing an urban setting for some nontraditional students that would be served better by living off campus and attending during the day.”

The Milwaukee facility will be one of 123 centers in the country, most of which are in rural areas. Northern Wisconsin is home to one other Job Corps Center in the city of Blackwell. Blackwell’s center was formerly a Civilian Conservation Corps camp set up during President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration. It turned into a Job Corps Center in 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson was in office.

The Milwaukee Job Corps center will feature two dormitories, vocational training shops, academic classrooms, a cafeteria and recreation facilities.

While in training, students learn a variety of hands-on instruction in more than 100 occupations that rage in industry based on the local labor needs. Training will be offered in information technology, construction, health care, security, manufacturing, and more.

According to Perez, 75 percent of Job Corps students are high school drop outs and more than 90 percent of Job Corps graduates receive jobs, apprenticeships or pursue higher education.

About 250 students will be selected to attend the Milwaukee Job Corps Center this fall, Perez said.

“Students are selected in an admission process, and may or may not be from the Milwaukee area,” Perez said. “The slots for students are going to get filled no matter what, so the Milwaukee community is really responsible for nominating students that would be a good fit.”

Job creator

The center is expected to create about 80 jobs for the Milwaukee area, as people are hired to run the facilities. All of the vocational and training equipment and supplies will be purchased from local vendors, as well.

Materials to train students in construction, wood work, masonry, and other technical skills would all be purchased in the area, Perez said.

“That’s potentially a great deal of money being put back into the Milwaukee economy,” he said. “Right now, the center is in the process of selecting the firm that will operate the center. They are selected based on specific criteria, and many are already running other centers in other areas,” Perez said.

Five companies have expressed interest in operating the Job Corps Center, Perez said. All five run Job Corp Centers in other cities. Perez expects the regional office to determine an operator of the center by mid-year.

According to Perez, the center can and will adapt over time to offer vocational training that fits the needs of the surrounding community. The center also will work with students, and local businesses to determine companies and institutions where full time work or apprenticeships might be a possibility.

“The economics of these centers in terms of cash outlays will be apparent and ongoing,” Perez said. “There will be a constant outpouring of trained individuals that could potentially compete in the local labor market.”

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