Nonprofit Group Will Help Fill Dane County Construction Jobs

Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership/BIG STEP Will Work With Community Groups To Help Fill 320 Projected Job Openings

The Alliant Energy Center, the county's main convention center, will soon undergo a major expansion. Above, the center’s Exposition Hall. Photo: Slambo (CC-BY-SA)

The Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership/BIG STEP program, first used in Milwaukee to fill manufacturing jobs during the 1990s, is launching in Dane County to fill construction jobs.

Dane County is experiencing a building boom of sorts: The airport is getting more parking, the county’s convention center is expanding, and a there’s a major lakeside hotel renovation. Projections show 320 skilled construction positions opening up in the next year and a half. Dane County has relatively low jobless rate, with the exception of African-Americans, who have much higher unemployment.

WRTP/BIG STEP is working with the Urban League and other community partners to prepare people for those expected jobs.

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“Is training needed?” said Earl Buford, president of WRTP/BIG STEP. “Is direct hire needed? Is skill enhancement needed? What are the factors in filling those projected openings?”

Big Step is getting $30,000 from the county to work with local contractors to find out what jobs are available. The group will also seek out those who left the trades during the Great Recession.

“With an aging workforce and an industry that is minimally promoted in our schools, it’s just good business to reach out and recruit workers to fill the current and future needs of replacing skilled-trades men and women as they retire,” said Steve Breitlow, president of the Building Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin.

Six weeks of entry-level construction training is funded by the Workforce Development Board of Wisconsin. The training includes math needed to pass the apprenticeship program, safety regulations and basic building skills.