Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Local Program Exemplifies Job Corps Success

Milwaukee education and job training center serves 240 young people; 87% get a job or enroll in college or military.

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Policy problem

The Job Corps program is limited by its very nature in how much it can accomplish in reducing poverty, according to David Riemer, a senior fellow at Milwaukee’s Public Policy Institute. Although the program and others like it may adequately prepare young adults for the workforce, Job Corps does not change the quality and quantity of available jobs, keys to reducing poverty, he said.

“In a labor market with more workers than jobs, you will always have losers,” Riemer said. He noted that better education and training are certainly important, “but to imagine that better education is going to solve the problem … is to be living in a fantasy world.

“What we need is governmental policies in place to deal with those times when the labor market does not offer enough work and wages don’t pay enough.”

Research also suggests that a policy package on the federal level that strengthens the transitional job market, raises the minimum wage, and increases and redesigns the Earn Income Tax Credit would reduce poverty by more than half, according to Riemer.

“If you do these policies separately, you get modest effects on poverty. It’s when you put them together…and they interact with each other” that it produces results,” he said.

James Roberts is not blind to the stark realities of the job market for young adults. He attempts to set realistic expectations for students who are about to finish the program and begin looking for a job.

“There are a few locations in Milwaukee where, if you get your foot in the door, [$20 an hour] might be reality,” he said. “But more commonly, you’re talking $11, $12 or $13 an hour and you will need to work your way up.”

That is why Roberts focuses some of his attention on nurturing relationships with the local work force development community and area employers who may not pay the most money, but offer jobs that come with a strong benefit packages and opportunities for career advancement in the future.

“It’s about pulling oneself out of poverty and that takes hard work,” he said.

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

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