by Mikel Holt
Milwaukee area youth hopeful of securing summer employment saw that possibility greatly enhanced when the state Department of Workforce Development announced a $422,000 grant Friday for the Summer Youth Program.
Addressing an audience consisting of over 100 young adults and area entrepreneurs at Palermo’s Pizza, Reggie Newson, secretary of Workforce Development said the grant would enable local coordinators of the program fill 400 employment slots.
Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment board executive director Don Sykes, who said this year’s goal of employing 1,500 youth was within reach as a result of the state grant, joined Secretary Newson.
“The program is a critical link in the workforce pipeline to connect Milwaukee youth with post secondary education, while providing them the opportunity to gain work experience and earn wages,” Secretary Newson said.
“This investment is reflective of the Governor’s commitment to prioritize state dollars during tight budget times to strengthen the workforce in the Milwaukee area. Area employers in turn will reap the benefits of having a pool of local workers available who can fill their seasonal labor needs.”
Newson, Sykes and Giacomo Fallucca, owner of Palermo’s Pizza spoke to the assembled youth about their early childhood experiences in the workforce and how it added significantly to both their skill set, but also their work habits.
Fallucca, who co-chairs the Earn & Learn program, said the summer youth program is a win-win scenario for both youth and business. Palermo’s has been a consistent participant in the program, which is championed by Mayor Tom Barrett.
In answer to a question from the audience, Newson said his teen workforce experiences help ground him and prepared him for his future endeavors.
One of the lessons he learned was that “employers don’t hire people, they hire skills, skills that are gained over the years through opportunities such as the Summer Youth Program, he said.
“The more skills you learn, the more you get paid.”
Sykes said one of his early work experiences was working at a dress factory. That was an experience that taught him that he didn’t want to work in that field. “It taught me to stay in schools; it was an incentive to go to college.”
In an interview after the presentation, Sykes said local coordinators were able to employ 3,500 area youth in 2009, but that figure has dropped significantly because of federal budget cuts for workforce training.
Last year only 1,000 youth were employed. This year’s goal is 1,500 for the program that runs from June 20 to August 16 and targets youth up to 21 years of age.
Sykes said the city earmarks $100,000 for the program. The Milwaukee Public Schools kicks in an additional $150,000 and the Workforce Investment board plans to contribute a minimum of $300,000 for the project that will place young adults in subsidized summer jobs in private, non-profit and governmental positions over the summer months.
Mayor Barrett is spearheading a campaign encouraging local corporations to contribute to the program.
Newson encouraged youth to tell their parents about a May 10 Jobs Expo that will provide immediate jobs for over 300 people. Details about the Expo are available on the Jobcenterwisconsin.com web site, or by calling 608-266-3131.