Milwaukee and surrounding communities have the largest employment gap between black and white Americans of any metropolitan area in the country. Unemployment for black Americans is 13.8 percent, while unemployment for white Americans in the area is 2.7 percent. This gap can be attributed to a number of factors, but lack of education and training, reliable transportation, interaction with the criminal justice system, and frequent movement of diverse talent out of the region are all contributing factors.
In reponse, United Way's Diversity Leadership Society is heading up a new initiative to reduce barriers to employment and advancement for local, diverse individuals. The overarching goal of the initiative is to reduce unemployment among African-Americans in the region by 15 percent by 2025.
A multi-faceted approach will be employed to reach this goal:
- Lack of education, training, and credentials: The Society has and will financially support programs that help adults learn to read, earn their GED or other employment credentials, and teach English as a Second Language (ESL).
- Transportation: The Society will support programs that help recover driver's licenses for adults, as well as programs that assist youth in obtaining their initial driver's license.
- History of involvement in the justice system: The Society will advocate for laws that promote expungement of records from public databases for non-violent offenders. Studies have shown that most employers are reluctant to hire applicants with criminal records, even for non-violent convictions.
- Diverse talent retention: According to a 2017 study, Wisconsin is the 10th most outbound state in the country, with more than 60% of movers leaving the state for a job. With help from outside consultants, the Society will develop a survey tool to understand why diverse talent is leaving the region at such a high rate.