Milwaukee streetcar project holds worker recruitment meeting

Posted at 1:24 PM, Jan 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-26 18:18:46-05
Almost 200 people had the chance to inquire and learn about construction jobs on the Milwaukee Streetcar ProjectThursday morning. 
An informational session was held at WRTP/BIG STEP at 38th Street and Wisconsin Avenue. 
WRTP/BIG STEP is a non-profit workforce intermediary dedicated to connecting people to family-sustaining jobs. 
"We're all about the skill trades, and trying to connect people with careers," said the organization's President & CEO Mark Kessenich. 
Kessenich said Thursday's worker recruitment meeting provided those interested in construction careers with information about not just the streetcar, but other large-scale projects downtown. 
"Because we have so much work in the economy right now, someone could start today as an apprentice and still be busy four or five years down the road," Kessenich said. 
Trenton Bowie, who said he's been enrolled in a tutoring program at WRTP/BIG STEP for roughly a year, showed up to begin the process of hopefully landing a gig as an operating engineer on the streetcar project. His background is in the electrical trades. 
Others, like Rafael Thomas, have no prior construction experience. He said he enrolled in a tutoring program at WRTP/BIG STEP because he wanted a long-term career after bouncing around several retail jobs. 
Obtaining an apprenticeship on the streetcar project appeals to him. 
"I'm from the inner city of Milwaukee, and it just would feel good to be a part of this," Thomas said. "This will be history." 
Mike Ethier, of Kiewit Corporation, the general contractor hired to build the streetcar, said he expects construction to begin this spring. 
"That's when we'll ramp up our hiring," he said. 
Ethier added there will be all kinds of positions available, including entry level. But he hopes people who land on the streetcar project will use the work experience to ensure other work in the trades once it's finished. 
"This is a gateway not just to a job on the streetcar, but to a career in construction," Ethier said. 
City Engineer Jeff Polenske said the city set the goal that at least 40 percent of those hired to work on the streetcar will be locals searching for employment. He added the hope is to exceed that initial benchmark. 
The first route of the streetcar, which will serve parts of Downtown and the Third Ward, is expected to begin operating in 2018. 
A lakefront loop addition to the route is expected to be running in 2019. 

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