MILWAUKEE — A report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum shows that Milwaukee’s construction workforce is still facing some challenges.
Data shows that unemployment is near historic lows while job openings are the highest they’ve been in more than two decades.
The Social Development Commission (SDC) is addressing this issue by preparing students for the skilled trades workforce. The SDC is a community action agency. It’s tasked with helping and advocating for Milwaukee County residents living in poverty.
The SDC’s Absolute Advantage program is a 12-week pre-apprenticeship course for income-eligible applicants. Students learn skills in residential construction, deconstruction, demolition and environmental services.
It’s teaching them everything they need to know to enter the workforce as a pre-apprentice. Students gain hands-on experience through opportunities created by SDC’s partnership with Ezekiel Community Development Corporation.
Severian Armstrong is a student in the program. He comes from a family involved in real estate management. He said he’s spent time doing smaller jobs like carpentry and he knew he wanted to do more.
“This was my chance to get the knowledge that I would need to take on a few of those bigger jobs,” said Armstrong.
Armstrong is looking at the bigger picture. He said getting into the trades will ultimately help his community.
“One of our big things in the city of Milwaukee is housing and foreclosed homes and houses that need a lot of work,” he said.
Armstrong said getting certified not only helps his future but the future of many others.
“If we can start to get homes together in the community, then we can start to put people into those homes,” he said. “That’s how you create a community or a village. That can change the dynamic of a lot of the endeavors we have.”
Shyrida Lane is the career service manager with the SDC.
She said once enrolled in the program, students are connected with a case manager to keep them on the right track.
“Typically, we graduate from high school and go off to college to get those four-year degrees and it works for some people, but doesn’t technically work for everyone,” said Lane. “These people are just wrapping their arms around each individual person to ensure that they are successful.”
Upon completion of Absolute Advantage, students receive national certification from the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), OSHA 10 Construction Safety, Lead Abatement Certification and a Completion Certificate of a Certified Pre-Apprenticeship Program from Wisconsin Apprenticeship Systems.
Armstrong said he’s grateful opportunities like this exist.
“It’s a life-changer, if you really take the knowledge and apply it and you really take it serious,” he said. “This is definitely a situation that can change the path ahead of you.”