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Milwaukee Mayor Barrett taps Willie Wade to lead jobs agency Employ Milwaukee

Willie Wade has been nominated to lead the workforce-development agency Employ Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett tapped Wade on Thursday to succeed Earl Buford, who announced in April he would leave for a job at a workforce agency in Pittsburgh. Employ Milwaukee’s board of directors will still need to sign off on Wade’s hiring.

Wade joined Employ Milwaukee in January 2016 and now serves as the agency’s chief marketing officer. From 2003 to 2016, he held a post as 7th District Alderman in Milwaukee. He then left for a job at Employ Milwaukee, the largest of Wisconsin’s 11 workforce-development boards. Before joining Employ Milwaukee, Wade had served on the agency’s board of directors as an alderman for 11 years.

Wade takes over the reins of the agency as public and private workforce development groups throughout the state grapple with a tight labor market and scramble to find the 10,000 construction workers who will be needed for the massive factory Foxconn Technology Group is planning to build in Racine County.

“Willie Wade’s passionate leadership and commitment to connecting people to lifelong employment is unparalleled,” said Mayor Barrett. “Willie is a proven change maker which he demonstrated in his time as an Alderman and in his current role at Employ Milwaukee. I am pleased with Willie’s ability to get things done.”

Employ Milwaukee has been charged with finding workers for large construction projects such as the new Milwaukee Bucks arena and the 44-story Couture high-rise, which crews are expected to break ground on this fall. The group has also been working with its counterparts in Racine and Kenosha to recruit the construction workers needed for the Foxconn project. The agency helps 14,000 people a year on average, more than 70 percent of whom are black.

At Employ Milwaukee, Wade currently oversees the Coordinating Council, a 25-member group of training and social-service providers. The group aims to find efficiencies in the workforce-development system and improve access to various resources. He also recently startedthe Mobile Workforce Connections effort, with aims to reach people in communities where they live, according to a news release from Barrett’s office.

Milwaukee Common Council president Ashanti Hamilton praised Wade as a “close ally and friend” in a statement Friday.

“Wade knows every angle of both the workforce challenges and opportunities in Milwaukee, and he appreciates the importance of creating real economic opportunity – and creating greater pathways to employment for more city residents – better than most,” Hamilton said in the statement.

About Nate Beck, [email protected]

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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