One of our most pressing issues is employment. We know Wisconsin has the highest unemployment rate among African Americans in the nation. About 1 in 5 working-age African Americans in Wisconsin is without a job.
The YWCA received support from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation to implement a study to address the impasse between employers who want to fill open positions and the thousands of unemployed workers in our community. We elected to use The Community Readiness Assessment developed by the Tri-Ethnic Center for Prevention Research at Colorado State University. It assesses how ready a community is to address an issue.
The readiness assessment scores a set of open-ended questions that are used to measure the attitudes, knowledge, efforts and activities, and resources available in Milwaukee to address employment.
Trained professionals have interviewed senior staff people responsible for hiring at nearly 50 companies. Our study included employers in the following high-growth sectors in Milwaukee County: construction, financial services, health care, hospitality and manufacturing.
The core question we assessed is the readiness of these employers to hire people with irregular work histories or limited soft skills. Interviews were conducted with forty-seven employers in March and April. We also completed focus groups with thirty-five workers looking for employment or working irregularly to better understand the issues they are facing in getting and retaining employment.
Preliminary results are in. These next few weeks will be spent analyzing the data, the qualitative information shared, reviewing themes from the sector interviews and our focus group data to determine follow-up.
Our goal is to better understand and communicate where employers are with hiring people with irregular work histories or limited soft skills. We know there is some awareness of and efforts to address the issue. Anticipating the climate of Milwaukee and determining leaders ready and willing to address the issue will help determine our next steps.
Watch for more details in the coming months.