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Unprecedented Partnership of 12 Workforce Development Boards Formed to Revitalize Midwest Economy

The Midwest is taking the lead in a unique partnership of a dozen workforce development boards working in tandem to drive economic growth in the region.

In July, workforce leaders from 12 Midwest cities convened in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to sign an agreement creating the Midwest Urban Strategies Consortium, the first partnership of its kind in the country.

Employ Milwaukee is the administrative lead of the consortium, working with workforce development boards in Chicago, Illinois; Cincinnati, Ohio; Cleveland, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Gary, Indiana; Indianapolis, Indiana; Kansas City, Missouri; Minneapolis, Minnesota; St. Louis, Missouri; and Wichita, Kansas. The U.S. Department of Labor is also an active member, providing technical assistance and guidance on national and regional workforce priorities.

The signing of the consortium agreement formalizes collaboration that has been taking place since 2015. Through the agreement, consortium members share resources and funding and leverage each other’s strengths. Midwest Urban Strategies was formed to: create a community of practice among the members who share a lot of the same challenges related to urban settings; provide the collective impact needed to revitalize the Midwest economy; and maximize federal, state, and local funds and effort.

Workforce leaders from 12 Midwest cities convened in Milwaukee to sign an agreement creating the Midwest Urban Strategies Consortium.

Tracey Carey, Director of Fund Development and Strategic Initiatives at Employ Milwaukee, looks forward to continuing to build on local strategies for regional impact. Moving forward Midwest Urban Strategies’ vision includes:

  • Creating regional, sector-based advisory boards comprised of business leadership
  • Utilizing multi-city organizations, such as the United Way and Boys and Girls Clubs of America, to create a regional network of service and training providers
  • Leveraging relationships with organizations like the National Skills Coalition and Jobs for the Future to deepen impact by utilizing the expertise and technical support of these nationally recognized research and policy advocacy organizations on a broader scale
  • Maximizing on the diversity and opportunity that comes from the scope and size of these urban epicenters, to secure resources, share information, implement best and tried practice to further fulfill its mission as change agents

The urban focus of the member workforce development boards contributes to the partnership’s synergy.

“Even though we’re in different cities and we’re organized in different ways, we all face the same kinds of issues. So, it gives us the space to learn together from other experiences,” said Carey. Last summer, when the city of Milwaukee experienced an outbreak of violence in one of its neighborhoods, the city reached out to Detroit and St. Louis to hear about how they worked to address similar issues in their communities and then adopted some of those practices.

The consortium’s work will be organized around a demand-driven model with focus on the following sectors:

  • Healthcare
  • Manufacturing
  • Construction
  • Financial Services
  • Hospitality

The goal of this model is to build regional talent pools and to meet the workforce needs of whole industries.

“We’re working to create parity in training; allowing people who want to move from Milwaukee to St. Louis, for example, to be able to secure credentials that are portable and lend themselves to employment throughout the Midwest region. And, we are developing a regional employer network that helps us do a better job of meeting employer needs,” said Carey.

The Department of Labor has funded three of the consortium’s initiatives. Additionally, the group is leveraging other public, private and philanthropic funding. JPMorgan Chase is providing resources to shore up capacity, aid in intra-city communication and coordination, and bring training and technical assistance to enhance sector-based partnerships with employers.

For more information on Midwest Urban Strategies, contact Tracey Carey by email at tracey.carey@midwesturbanstrategies.com.

Midwest Take Note: St. Louis is Taking the Lead with New Partnership Model for Highway Construction Workforce Development

In a ground-breaking strategy, transportation organizations and workforce development boards are coming together to share expertise and resources to grow the transportation workforce. As part of a national initiative, St. Louis, Missouri will lead the way for the Midwest as one of a dozen sites selected to pilot this model across the country.

This step represents a remarkable opportunity to refine the Midwest Strategy—a cohesive approach across our states for growing the transportation talent pipeline. As other industries have built successful programs in collaboration with their state and local workforce development boards (WDBs), the transportation industry can draw on these models and emulate similar partnerships. Even as the project was being announced, additional Midwestern cities and states are following St. Louis’ lead to explore new ways to build partnership and collaboration across agencies and with industry partners.

Workforce development boards bring a wealth of resources to such collaborations, excelling at building community connections, building business networks, and acting regionally. Likewise, the transportation sector brings strong industry leadership to the table together with domain expertise in select areas such as certification and licensing and mid-career recruitment.

St. Louis is one of a dozen sites across the United States selected for the Highway Construction Workforce Development Pilot program. This program is a partnership between the Federal Highway Administration, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Associated General Contractors of America, American Road & Transportation Builders Association, the US Department of Labor-Employment & Training Administration, and state and local workforce development boards.

The project was created to address the challenge of developing a skilled and diverse workforce. Project partners will evaluate methods and processes to close skills gaps in highway construction and to draw qualified applicants into these occupations. Work will also be done to identify, train and place individuals in high-demand highway construction occupations.

The pilot locations include select cities and states. The cities are Pittsburgh, Atlanta, St. Louis, Dallas, Denver, and Los Angeles. The states are Connecticut, Rhode Island, Alabama, South Dakota, Arizona, and Idaho.

SLATE, the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment, is the Workforce Development Board that is identifying constructions projects and convening local stakeholders. The MTWC will provide updates as the St. Louis working group identifies new processes.

About the Author

Maria Hart is a freight transportation researcher and a transportation planner by trade. Hart manages all center activities including stakeholder engagement and outreach strategies. She also curates the transportation workforce resource clearinghouse database. Hart applies social science approaches to center activities, including such methods as collective impact, community building, and communities of practice, in order to inspire conversations around transportation workforce development that drive innovation.