January 6, 2010
Held at Urban League of Milwaukee
Co-hosted by Community Advocates, Urban League, UMOS,
Northwest Side Community Development Corporation, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, and Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope
1. From what you have seen, or seen reported, about the President’s Jobs Forum on December 3, what seems relevant to your community?
The December 3 forum was definitely focused on the need for immediate job creation and the recognition that certain sectors are really hurting. Milwaukee has a clear lack of jobs. There is a huge gap between employment opportunities and number of people that need jobs. Much of the stimulus money went to preventing job loss, now we need to quickly move to create more family-supporting jobs. Participants at the Milwaukee forum felt that hosting the event at the White House underscores that urgency and the need to address the current jobs crisis.
The White House should make an effort to improve communication to the public in general of the outcomes of events like this. Make sure this information gets disseminated to grassroots organizations and businesses.
Compliments to the Job and Economic Growth Summit staff for seeking additional input and feedback from business and community leaders across the country.
2. What are the parts of your local economy that are working or thriving? What businesses and sectors are expanding and hiring?
Health care is definitely expanding and hiring.
The portion of construction that’s involved in building highways (infrastructure) is hiring.
High tech companies also seem to be doing well (Rockwell, Johnson Controls, etc).
Public sector/government jobs have been stable.
Manufacturing has taken a hit, but Milwaukee is still a manufacturing hub.
See Survey of Job Openings (occupations) in the 7 Counties of Southeast Wisconsin: May 25, 2009. (Regional Workforce Alliance-Southeast WI/WIRED Project)
3. What parts of your local economy are not working or thriving? What businesses and sectors have been hit the hardest? What are people struggling with the most?
Many sectors of our economy are suffering.
Manufacturing has been hit hard. Small businesses have been hit hard. Stores blocked by construction projects have been hit hard. Although the negative trends have been somewhat uniform, African-American areas have been particularly hit hard, especially food services (e.g., grocery stores). As people have less disposable income housing, retail, hospitality have all been affected.
- Construction (commercial industrial and residential) has been hit hard.
- Low wage and unskilled jobs have been impacted the most by recent job loss.
- Many workers have been forced to get jobs through temporary hiring agencies that don’t lead to full time work.
- African American men have been hardest hit by the job loss in the past year. This is especially true for those individuals who have recently been incarcerated.
- The nonprofit sector has been hit hard. Charitable giving and foundation support have decreased at a time when more people need help.
- The community is seeing a significant increase in the number of people accessing public assistance program like energy assistance as well as food pantries. People are struggling with putting food on the table.
Research resources on state of Milwaukee’s economy:
JOB LOSS DATA IN PAST 2 YEARS FOR THE STATE OF WISCONSIN
- All jobs loss: 163,800 jobs lost or 5.7% decline
- Manufacturing jobs loss: 62,800 or 12.6% decline
- Construction jobs loss: 18,300 or 14.8%
Source: UW-Madison Center for Wisconsin Strategies Job Watch Update November 2009 (December 2007 to November 2009)
Race and Male Joblessness in Milwaukee, 2008 – UWM Center for Economic Development
Understanding the Needs of Unemployed in Milwaukee County – UWM Employment and Training Institute
Ex-offender Population in Milwaukee County Research Report – UWM Employment and Training Institute
4. What are the opportunities for growth in your community? What businesses and sectors seem poised to rebound? What do you see as the “jobs of the future”?
There are particularly strong opportunities for growth in the Milwaukee area in the following areas: renewable energy, energy efficiency and weatherization, green jobs, water, infrastructure improvements, and technology in general.
Because of the aging of the population, health care-particularly caring for the elderly-will be a growth industry. Health care is an example of jobs that can’t be exported.
In addition, growth is likely to occur for firms that are “doing the same things we’re doing now” but using different techniques, including new approaches to training (for instance high-tech or green manufacturing, green construction).
Metal fabrication occupations (Bucyrus International expansion in Milwaukee and Oshkosh Truck Company in Fox Valley (unfortunately their growth is in defense contracts)
Training and retraining are key to creating and sustaining the “jobs of the future.”
Research Resource: Wisconsin Forgotten Middle Skilled Jobs – UW Madison Center on Wisconsin Strategy
5. What are the obstacles to job creation in your community? What could make local businesses more likely to start hiring?
There are not enough jobs in Milwaukee. This is a problem across-the-board, but particularly for minorities. There was a special concern about a shortage of family-supporting jobs. Participants said it’s not just creating jobs, but making sure they are “jobs with a future.” Good sustaining jobs, meaning full-time jobs at good wages with benefits. Some participants felt there was not enough of a sense of urgency to address job crisis among enough local stakeholders.
Several major obstacles impede job creation in Milwaukee. They include:
- Lack of access to capital (loans), especially for small businesses firms run by women and minorities. Need for more support for small business development as a job creation strategy.
- K12/tech college education system not aligned to job opportunities, problems of unequal access for minorities to job training and simply an overall lack of training opportunities for the types of jobs available. Employers need to better communicate their needs in order to solve the skills mismatch.
- A shortage of firms-especially in Milwaukee’s central city-that are involved in exporting products. We are doing too much importing of foreign-made goods.
- The health care system, including the overall cost and excessive growth in the rate of costs, as well as the difficulty that would-be entrepreneurs face in obtaining health insurance that prevents them from starting up job-creating businesses.
- Lack of transportation policy and mass transit that connects unemployed to jobs in the region to address spatial mismatch and to help us compete with other big cities.
- Lack of policies that put disadvantaged at the front of the line for new opportunities. Even five years ago in Milwaukee the black male jobless rate was over 50% in some areas, much higher than that of other populations. The state minority contracting goal (5%) is way too low. Recovery can’t be just about helping those who have recently become unemployed.
- How hiring happens now. Older people who are looking for work are at a deficit when competing against younger, more tech savvy, workers. Many applications are online only. There are background checks, drug screening, credit checks. These are new to many people who haven’t looked for work in a long time.
- Criminal backgrounds: We need to be looking at laws that limit people who have been incarcerated from getting certain jobs. Perhaps we need a state controlled entity to determine whether an ex-offender is appropriate for a job, not the employer. Need job openings and career counseling for those individuals who have been incarcerated, and perhaps an amnesty program for formerly incarcerated individuals.
- Lack of private sector jobs! There is failure to acknowledge that we are in a SERIOUS CRISIS. We need to establish a community jobs public policy network and find more funding for transitional job programs.
The group felt strongly that we needed more demand for green jobs-and a better effort to make them accessible to low-income, minority, unemployed workers.
The group shared unease that employers don’t sense a responsibility or urgency to retain or invest in their work force. There is a sense the social compact is not as strong as it used to be, trained employees not valued as they were, workers more expendable. A concern that the outsource/temp mentality will continue after the recovery. This is not the new economic model we want.
Finally, the group expressed strong dissatisfaction with the way TARP dollars went not to Main Street but exclusively to Wall Street.
6. What other issues and ideas should the President consider?
Creating a large-scale Transitional Jobs program, linked to training, should definitely be considered. There must be urgency to create public works jobs in the short-term to put the unemployed back to work, with placement of unemployed in WPA-type jobs in the parks, building bridges, and social service agencies.
In addition, we urge the President to consider:
- Requiring people who receive federal funds to be responsible for delivering employment outcomes. Improving priorities and accountability for existing job training programs, especially for people with multiple barriers.
- Linking remedial education and training to private sector job guarantees, creating incentives for employers to send workers to school and expecting social responsibility from business to hire those without work. Business needs to be at the table and involved to help solve the job crisis.
- Send federal funding directly to cities and avoid sending funds to the State.
- Joint sessions and workshops with government and business and non-profit organizations to promote job creation.
- More youth programs — positive alternatives to being on the street.
- Market driven public/private partnerships.
Focus on longer term programs, comprehensive and addressing systemic issues, not patchwork programs. We need an inclusive, non-fragmented community plan that places priorities on people and addresses the challenges that prevent people from being employed. (infrastructure issues, limited education, teen pregnancy.)
We need to bring this discussion up to a level of crisis. There has been insufficient attention paid to the urban crisis that is impacting cities like Milwaukee. If our cities fail, everything else fails.
This community jobs forum was attended by 75 people from all walks of life and every sector of our local economy, including the marginalized. It was a collaboration between 6 community groups: Community Advocates, Urban League, UMOS, Northwest Side Community Development Corporation, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, and Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope.
It represented the best of Milwaukee, was full of energy and hope, and shows that people really care to remake our economic community to be healthy, fair and decent.
Photographs of the six individual work groups can be seen at: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=147503&id=131584766808&ref=mf
We look forward to being a part of the effort, with President Obama’s leadership, to restoring our city to economic health with opportunity for all.