Milwaukee County Youth Employment Program to provide second-chance job training

A partnership between the Social Development Commission, community support group HeartLove Place, and an operator of McDonald’s franchises will provide young people with second-chance job training in hopes of getting them back on the right path.

The Milwaukee County Youth Employment Program helps kids age 15.5 to 17 involved with the juvenile justice system; it’s supported by a $50,000 youth employment grant from Milwaukee County.

Program participants receive certification in food safety and food management, learning about cross-contamination and allergies.

After being referred by Milwaukee County juvenile courts system or its case workers, they go through educational classes and apply those lessons in McDonald’s restaurants locally owned and operated by MacPyles Corporation, a Milwaukee-based restaurant management company. There is no payment for the work they do during the program, but they can start earning if they are hired by MacPyles after successfully completing the six-week course.

As well as teaching marketable skills, the program strongly emphasizes financial literacy, according to George Hinton, CEO of the SDC.

“For example, what do you do with a paycheck?” he said. “How do you turn, even at a young age, savings into wealth? The program teaches the value of work, the value of money.”

Other lessons the program imparts are on resume writing, interviewing, work behavior and punctuality.

“We want them to understand what it takes to be successful in life,” Hinton said, adding the program aims to curb the trend of “too many” going to jail in the Milwaukee area.

Patrice Harris, director of community relations and marketing, says the goal of SDC and its partners is to “prevent kids from going back into the system.”

“We want to help them alter the path they might be on — send them down a productive path,” she said.

Participants work with a case manager, who will be in touch for six months.

“It’s not just ‘go through, get a job, then be forgotten… No, we want to continue to work with them; education, college, tech college — whatever,” said Viola Rembert, executive director of HeartLove Place. “So they become positive parts of the community.”

“No one’s listening to them; they feel invisible,” Rembert said. “We want to tell them, ‘We see you. We care.’”

The grant will let up to 60 youth take part in the program. The first session begins April 27 and goes until June 9.

–By Alex Moe