In the 1990s, Milwaukee’s traditional industry base faced a lot of challenges. The combination of the recovery of manufacturing, retirement of an aging workforce and the diversification of the regional economy created a growing skills shortage.
It was during this time period that the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership was founded to meet some of these challenges. WRTP later combined with the Building Industry Group Skilled Trades Employment Program to form WRTP | BIG STEP.
Today, the nonprofit workforce intermediary is dedicated to connecting people with family sustaining jobs.
“At WRTP | BIG STEP we believe in being good stewards of the investments donors and sponsors make in our work,” said Lindsay Blumer, president and CEO. “We see our work and the funding we receive to sustain it as less about charity and more about justice.”
The nonprofit has formed partnerships with Boys & Girls Clubs, Operation Fresh Start and the Latino Academy of Workforce Development to provide youth and emerging adults with culturally competent, thorough and relevant training.
The organization has also worked with the state Department of Corrections and Literacy Services of Wisconsin to build a hands-on construction curriculum in prisons with a pathway to employment.
Asked what some of the biggest challenges to diversifying the workforce are, Blumer said: “We must all reflect on how vibrant our workforce can and should be in terms of diversity. Never again will our workforce look like it did years ago, let alone days ago. We are a dynamic society, and our workforce should be as well.
“We’re not just driving numbers, we’re changing cultures. With the support and trust of our community we tackle the biggest of these challenges because it’s clear that everyone deserves a pathway to a good career, economic security and a safe work environment that embraces them for who they are.”