Leveraging Economic Development for Greater Workforce Opportunities
Economic development is the great equalizer. With several well-paying industries having a steep cost of entry, the union building and construction trades and partner contractors have long invested in the workforce readiness tools necessary for those willing to put in the work. And, through strategic partnerships, community leaders have been able to leverage these investments on behalf of the community, creating long-term, wealth-building careers for all members of society.
WRTP│BIG STEP – The Model for Success
The Building Industry Group & Skilled Trades Employment Program (BIG STEP) was officially formed in 1976 as a non-profit for minority advancement in the building and construction trades. Later merging with the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership, WRTP│BIG STEP is driven to enhance the ability to recruit and develop a more diverse, qualified workforce in construction, manufacturing and emerging sectors.
Direct services include tutoring, hands-on learning, apprenticeship readiness, community certifications (see RPP below), referrals and recruitment. As an industry led, worker centered and community focused organization, WRTP│BIG STEP delivers for contractors, trades and recruits.
Residents Preference Program (RPP) – Leveraging Public Spending for the Greater Good
The Residents Preference Program (RPP) was launched in 1991 as a tool to help ensure that the economic gains from public spending were realized by the local workforce. Here, City of Milwaukee residents are guaranteed to be included anytime substantial City funds are allocated to development. Think Streetcar, Northwestern Mutual and the Fiserv Forum. Today, think Couture, Wisconsin Center Expansion and Komatsu.
Standing as a true industry and community partner, WRTP│BIG STEP consistently delivers on community recruitment, RPP Certification and career readiness for Milwaukee residents. Here, the joint investment, by local union trades and their affiliated contractors, reliably delivers when leveraging community dollars.
Joint Apprenticeship – Careers, Not Just Jobs
The Building and Construction Trades Joint Apprenticeship system ensures that these new recruits are introduced to career opportunities, and not just a job while the project is still underway.
By requiring that a specified minimum number of RPP hours are to be performed by apprentices, the City, developer and contractor are all committed to supporting new tradesmen and women on their path to becoming journeymen and journeywomen. Along the way, these individuals will receive hundreds of hours of in-class training, where they will acquire and hone new skills, making themselves more valuable and productive on the jobsite. In turn, as they continue to refine their craft, they also continue to build greater financial security for themselves and their family.
Equitable by Default and Design
Today’s commercial building and construction trades are race and gender neutral by default. Members in the field are judged fairly, based on factors like work ethic, willingness to learn and professionalism. If you’re willing to put in the work, we have a home for you. We also recognize that it’s a tough industry, and where strong and direct personalities are necessary to get the job done, harassment and exclusion are not welcome. And contractors, trades and training centers are leading by example with zero tolerance policies.
Empowering the Whole Community
Becoming an apprentice in the building or construction trades is often the goal for those familiar with the industry. Making it the aspiration for those unfamiliar starts by building awareness of the opportunities to the community at large. And working together to bring these opportunities to the entire community requires that we are all pulling in the same direction.
With all the partners engaged, we can target untapped pockets of the community, including building youth awareness and hands-on learning opportunities at the high school level, upskilling un- or underemployed individuals, or reskilling those transitioning from different work and life situations. It includes working with trusted community-based organizations that have direct contact with prime candidates. And it certainly means working with, and funding, industry partners who have long leveraged economic development to prioritize opportunities for the community.