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Social Development Commission’s Absolute Advantage Program Leads to Higher Salaries in Construction Industry

Job Fair

Six months ago, Anthony Addison was stuck and stressed out. He needed to make more money to sustain his family.  The stakes were high. His next career move would impact the people he loved most –his fiancé, a young daughter, and mother.  They depended on him.

Keep in mind, Anthony had a job.  However, he was under-employed. Like roughly 54% of Milwaukee County households, Anthony carried the burden of not having enough money to cover the basic cost of living.  To make matters worse, Anthony’s current employer refused to pay Anthony money he was owed. It’s a scenario that gets repeated for those who can least afford it. Fly-by-night employers often take advantage of workers who feel they don’t have the skills to do better.

So Anthony was stuck. And he thought there were few options.

Anthony wasn’t completely wrong. Most construction laborers get hired first and then receive extensive on-the-job training.  For applicants who don’t get hired, training and professional certifications remain hard to get. The end result — people who want to work are left behind – left without sustainable employment and skills.

The Social Development Commission created its Absolute Advantage program to target this population. For the last three years, the program has worked with students to disrupt a negative cycle often unaddressed by employers.

By helping Milwaukee County residents develop on-the-job skills while earning construction certifications at the same time, SDC’s Absolute Advantage students walk away from this nine-week program with work history, references, and a marketable resume. Specifically, students earn national and local certifications from OSHA and Milwaukee’s Residents Preference Program.  Additionally, students have support from SDC case management and other family-strengthening programs and services.

The Residents Preference Program (RPP) enables unemployed or underemployed residents of the City of Milwaukee to gain access to construction employment opportunities. This is major. Most Milwaukee Department of Public Works contracts require contractors to employ RPP-certified workers for 40% of the work.

As a result, SDC Absolute Advantage graduates earn higher salaries and even expand their employment options by qualifying for work at diverse sites. In a competitive job market, certifications make them attractive to potential employers. This program gives students an edge in construction opportunities.

Today, after graduating from SDC’s Absolute Advantage program, Anthony Addison is employed by the City of Milwaukee as a laborer. Eventually, he wants to create his own business that builds and remodels houses.  This SDC program is making an impact on students’ lives, their families and the Milwaukee community as a whole.