In a significant development for Milwaukee’s workforce, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced a federal grant of $1.5 million to support the modernization and upgrade of the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership/BIG STEP facility. The funding aims to enhance the training experience for residents seeking careers in various trades, providing them with valuable skills and opportunities without the necessity of a college education.
Lindsay Blumer, the President and CEO of WRTP/BIG STEP, expressed enthusiasm about the investment, highlighting its potential to create a cutting-edge learning environment for individuals from diverse backgrounds. The center caters to youth, people of color, women, veterans, and those with justice involvement, offering them access to well-paying, family-sustaining careers.
Secretary Yellen, visiting the active training site on Wisconsin Avenue, emphasized the importance of equipping residents with the skills necessary to secure well-paying jobs. The funds, she noted, will advance the center’s mission and contribute to preparing individuals for apprenticeships in various trades.
Yellen underscored the Biden administration’s commitment to revitalizing opportunities outside traditional college pathways. She commended the historic labor market recovery, citing the creation of 2.7 million jobs in 2023. The visit served as an opportunity for Yellen to engage with students, witnessing firsthand the practical skills they are acquiring through the training programs.
Students like Kealan Davis, specializing in plumbing and electrical work, expressed gratitude for the program, highlighting the prospect of earning multiple job certifications. Yellen observed demonstrations by students, showcasing their ability to measure and cut wood using power tools, emphasizing the practical applicability of the skills being taught.
This financial boost is not the first recognition for WRTP/BIG STEP from the White House. The center had previously visited Washington, D.C., in September 2022, showcasing how funds from the American Rescue Plan Act were utilized to create diverse training programs.
Despite Wisconsin’s robust economic metrics, with a low unemployment rate of 3.3% and a steady labor force participation rate, Yellen acknowledged that perceptions of the economy may not align with the positive indicators. She attributed this to the lingering effects of inflation but reassured that real incomes are rising, and households are making progress.
As the presidential election year unfolds, Yellen’s visit becomes part of a broader narrative on economic policies. Republicans, however, challenge the administration’s economic narrative, with critics citing concerns over inflation and declining wages.
In conclusion, the $1.5 million federal investment in the WRTP/BIG STEP facility marks a significant step toward bolstering trade education in Milwaukee. The funds aim to empower individuals with practical skills, bridging the gap between education and employment and contributing to the economic revitalization of the region.