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Politics & Government

Secretary Allen: State Plans Additional Money for Job Training in Milwaukee's Central City

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Bonnie Petrie
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DWD Secretary Ray Allen announces job training money in Milwaukee last August

Violence erupted in the Sherman Park neighborhood a year ago – after a Milwaukee police officer fatally shot an armed suspect. The outburst was partly the result of frustration over stubborn issues that have been plaguing the central city. Among the top concerns – jobs. The incident prompted Gov. Walker to commit $4.5 million to help employ people from central city neighborhoods.

Milwaukee’s unemployment rate has declined from 6.5 percent to five percent in the year since the Sherman Park unrest, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

Secretary Ray Allen says of the $4.5 million that Gov. Walker allocated, nearly a half-million went to local businesses to train and employ people in central city neighborhoods. Allen says as a result, the jobs picture in the area looks better than it did a year ago. He touts the success of job training efforts, such as one we visited at a neighborhood church earlier this year.

“We had 300 people who attended our access point centers. Checking wage data, we know that at least two out of three have employment. So, there are some that are still within the system that are receiving benefits that are in the process of being assessed for training,” Allen says.

In addition, after last August's unrest, the state set up mobile job service centers in struggling neighborhoods. And, the state's investment has provided employment to several hundred young people this summer, who are rehabbing foreclosed homes in Sherman Park.

While Allen calls the efforts a success, he says more work needs to be done on the north side. He acknowledges that some people haven't heard about the opportunities, and says the state plans on investing more money -- including on getting the word out.

“We’ll begin another set of outreach sessions later this year, probably in September, to go back and start going into the communities to hold outreach sessions to duplicate what we did before. We feel like we are on a good path, we want to serve more individuals and we believe we laid a good foundation but we’re going to continue our investment in individuals in the city of Milwaukee and invest in their futures,” Allen says.

He says the state continues to work with people who face other barriers to employment, such as transportation. For instance, he says some of the money the state allocated is providing bus tickets to jobs that are located a distance from the north side.

Allen adds, he sees tremendous opportunities on the horizon for people who live in the central city, with electronics giant Foxconn planning to locate a huge factory in Wisconsin. Milwaukee residents would have to commute to the jobs, because Foxconn reportedly wants to build in Racine or Kenosha County.

“You are going to see an investment from our department and the DOT in providing transportation options, initially investing in those and providing individuals to move to and from where the jobs are. I think as time goes on, that investment will be enhanced,” he  Allen says.

One of the concerns raised by people skeptical of the Foxconn deal is the fact that the jobs would be located so far away from Milwaukee's north side -- which is where some of the people who most desperately need work live. A $3 billion state incentives package is moving through the Legislature. The Assembly could vote on the deal this week.

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