Milwaukee receives federal TechHire designation

City aiming to train 600 workers for tech jobs

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett uses a smart board to demonstrate the ease of utilizing new technologies.

The city of Milwaukee was designated by the Obama administration as one of 15 new TechHire communities on Wednesday, part of an effort to increase the number of residents employed in the tech industry.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett uses a smart board to demonstrate the ease of utilizing new technologies.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett uses a smart board to demonstrate the ease of utilizing new technologies.

“We know this is an area where jobs are just exploding,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said. “Unlike many of the blue collar jobs that were the backbone of this community for literally decades but have been disappearing in recent years, this is an area where there’s a growth in jobs.”

The Milwaukee labor market had over 2,200 openings in information at the beginning of 2016, according to a Burning Glass Technologies analysis.

As a state, Wisconsin ranks 20th in the nation in tech industry employment and added 3,885 jobs in 2015, according to CompTIA’s Cyberstates 2016 report. The state has 97,602 tech industry jobs. The report found that the tech wages are 76 percent higher than the average private sector job in Wisconsin. At an average of $77,600, the state ranked 37th for tech wages in the country.

The city’s goal is to train and place 150 individuals in tech jobs by 2017 and do the same for a total of 600 by 2020. Employ Milwaukee, Inc. – formerly the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board and the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee’s Milwaukee TechForce Training Center are leading the effort

Barrett acknowledged the White House designation does not come with any federal funds, but said it will help the city compete for grant money. He said Employ Milwaukee is currently working on an application for a multi-million dollar grant that would go to the very issues TechHire tries to address.

“The fastest growing jobs are in the area of technology and we have to make sure our economy and our residents are responding to that,” Barrett said.

He added that many people planning for careers in the tech industry opt to pursue two-year or four-year degrees. Barrett said those are certainly appropriate routes, but the work of TechHire and the TechForce center is to provide alternatives to those who can’t access those opportunities. The idea, he said, is to help people get a foot in the door into the tech industry.

Employ Milwaukee vice president of community affairs Willie Wade speaks at a press conference Wednesday as Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett looks on.
Employ Milwaukee vice president of community affairs Willie Wade speaks at a press conference Wednesday as Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett looks on.

Willie Wade, Employ Milwaukee’s vice president of community affairs, said the designation was a “major coup” for the city. He recalled being in Washington D.C. when the initiative was launched. He said President Barack Obama was talking about the opportunities St. Louis would be getting as part of the initiative and Wade wondered what that could do for Milwaukee. Wade said Milwaukee will now have a chance to help move people into new careers.

Herb Hayden, director of the Adult Learning Center, said the new TechForce, which is co-located with the Adult Learning Center, will help people get the training they need. The facility at 1916 N. 4th St. will open this summer and will offer certificates and courses in Microsoft products, coding, computer aided design and other areas.

Hayden said part of the idea in designing the center was to make it responsive to the needs of the industry and community.

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers manufacturing for BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.