Helen Bader Foundation: Funds $1.1 million in grants in new approach to address jobs for Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE – (April 26, 2012) – The Helen Bader Foundation (HBF), a leading philanthropic Milwaukee-based foundation, announced today its Board of Directors has approved $1,147,500 in funding to 24 local workforce development projects across 23 organizations. These funds will advance collaborative models of successful workforce development for Milwaukee’s diverse population of unemployed.
Recent data from the state Department of Workforce Development revealed the unemployment rate jumped from 8.6% to 8.8% in Milwaukee County, which reported 40,297 local individuals were unemployed in February.
“Milwaukee’s workforce development system has been slow to adapt to the needs of today’s highly diversified unemployed, processing all job seekers in the same way, regardless of skill sets, experience, maturity, level of work “readiness” and need,” said Jerry Roberts, program officer and manager of the Foundation’s efforts to address workforce development. “Our funding can take chances and risks, where the system in place cannot.”
HBF has recently adjusted one of its long-standing focus areas from economic development to workforce development, or jobs for Milwaukee. This sharpened focus will enable the organization to support and help create innovative approaches to linking the city’s numerous unemployed with sustainable employment.
“After talking with everyone from local employers to unemployed individuals, it is clear that while there are legions of unemployed, there are local jobs available,” said Roberts. “While it’s a simple concept – connect the unemployed to the openings – there are numerous, complex challenges in play.”
Recognizing a need to approach the city’s unemployment crisis differently, the Foundation – which has historically been a leader on issues such as economic development, Alzheimer’s and aging and city youth – will again extend its leadership by also convening thought leaders and partners to address Milwaukee’s unemployment issue.
“As a driver for change, we are well-positioned to be a leader on the issue of workforce development” said Daniel Bader, President and CEO. “As we bring our community together to uncover and discuss the complexities behind our city’s unemployment issue, we can begin thinking and acting boldly to develop opportunities for Milwaukee’s workforce.”
In addition to tracking the impact of each of the workforce development projects, the Board of Directors has also approved plans for the Foundation to convene a workforce issues speaker series and an annual summit, including national, regional and local experts to discuss workforce issues and potential solutions to this crisis.
The workforce development projects that have been funded by the Foundation will provide local organizations with the funds needed to meet the direct needs of the city’s unemployed and its employers. These projects include job preparation programs, skills training and hands-on work experiences for the unemployed, efforts to spur business and job creation in the community and research initiatives that lead to improved workforce development policies for Milwaukee’s unemployed.
“We not only want to get people back to work as soon as possible, but we also want to make sure that our efforts are sustainable for the long-term,” said Bader.
The Foundation’s grants aim to help organizations build upon their workforce-focused efforts, investing in new approaches to reach the unemployed. Through one grant, The Community Warehouse, Inc. is building on its successful home-improvement center for low-income residents by cultivating seasonal contract work which helps participants build their skill sets and prepare for long-term employment.
“With this [grant] we are launching a new division that recruits, trains, and mentors adults who face high barriers to steady employment,” said George Bogdonavich, executive director. “This support will help us build our model to reach more Milwaukeeans who lack a clear path to a job.”
The Foundation is awarding $1.5 million annually in workforce development grants, and it is soliciting grant requests through June 28, 2012, a process that is open to nonprofits and government entities working in the city of Milwaukee. The Foundation has given more than $23 million in similar grants since 1997.
About the Helen Bader Foundation
Milwaukee-based Helen Bader Foundation, Inc. is a philanthropic leader in improving the quality of life of the diverse communities in which it works. The Foundation supports innovative projects and programs through grants, convening partners, and sharing knowledge to affect emerging issues in key areas. Awarding an average of $10 million annually, the Foundation has an emphasis on youth, aging, and workforce development for at risk populations. The Foundation has awarded more than $200 million in grants and $10 million in Program Related Investments such as loans and equity investments since 1992. For more information on the Foundation, visit www.hbf.org.