With an estimated millions of dollars in contracts to award to get water to the site of Foxconn Technology Group’s planned LCD manufacturing campus in Mount Pleasant, the city of Racine is launching a $1.5 million program aimed at training unemployed residents to work on those projects.
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Racine Mayor Cory Mason speaks at an event announcing the Racine Works training program.[/caption]
Racine Works will draw on funding from a number of sources to train 167 unemployed residents and another 15 incumbent employees with the city. Funding includes $500,000 from the city, $400,000 from the state Department of Workforce Development’s Wisconsin Fast Forward program, a $100,000 grant from the Gateway Foundation and $500,000 in wage subsidies from UMOS.
“Somebody is going to build these facilities and the question is how many people can we get trained,” Racine Mayor Cory Mason said.
Mason noted the city can implement local hiring requirements for contractors working on city projects, but enforcing them is a challenge if the workforce is not available.
“It’s really hard to hold contractors to that standard if we don’t have the training focus locally,” he said.
Statewide, unemployment is at 2.8 percent, but in Racine County it was slightly higher in April at 3.2 percent and 4.1 percent in the city of Racine. However, those figures don’t count people who have given up on looking for work.
State and local officials have expressed a desire for Foxconn’s planned investment to provide an opportunity for under and unemployed people in Milwaukee and Racine to be brought into the workforce. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton used their remarks at Foxconn’s announcement of a North American headquarters in the city to push for a wider benefit for all the city’s neighborhoods. Hamilton in particular said it was important to be intentional about making those connections.
Mason agreed that connecting those looking for work with the available opportunities will require focus, adding Foxconn’s arrival has already forced a number of collaborations between organizations in Racine.
Other organizations involved in the Racine Works program include WRTP/BIG STEP, Human Capital Development Corporation – First Choice Pre-Apprenticeship Program, Gateway Technical College, Racine County Economic Development Corporation and the Racine County Human Services Department.
Even with the Foxconn project racing ahead and some water utility contracts already awarded, Mason said it is not too late to get people training. He added the effort will also have to go beyond training to bring people into the program.
“Recruitment goes hand-in-hand with the training,” he said. “It’s not just a matter of announcing there will be training. We’ve got to go into the community and reach people where they are.”