A new national effort will seek to expand opportunities for women in traditionally male-dominated fields such as manufacturing and construction, through federal funding provided to a Milwaukee workforce organization.

“Our main goals are to really convene partners from across the United States to share best practices on how we can raise women’s success in apprenticeship and nontraditional occupations,” said Lindsay Blumer, president and CEO of WRTP | BIG STEP.

The Milwaukee-based group has received a $750,000 grant from the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau to launch the disruptHER Consortium. In an interview, Blumer explained WRTP | BIG STEP is an intermediary group that works with job seekers, employers and unions to support workforce development.

“Our vision is that traditionally underemployed people — particularly women and people of color — have access to employment training and equitable opportunities,” she told WisBusiness.com.

She said the organization was notified of the funding earlier this month, and will begin programming through the national consortium by the end of October. Other partners in the effort will be given a portion of the funding as sub-grantees, while the Milwaukee group will retain a percentage of the funds to create a “best practices library” for sharing ideas on how to accomplish the consortium’s goals.

Along with other groups around the country, a Milwaukee-based talent attraction effort called The Commons will receive funding to help identify hurdles for women pursuing apprenticeships or other opportunities in various sectors. Blumer pointed to issues such as child care, transportation and the workplace environment, adding the effort aims to “be innovative in how we can drill down to actionable solutions” to these challenges.

Other partners include the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee, West Oakland Jobs Resource Center, California – Workforce & Economic Development Program, Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building & Construction Trades Council AFL-CIO, Equus Workforce Solutions, and the Machinist Training Institute 751. A planning meeting will be held this week to begin determining the specific funding breakdown, Blumer said.

The consortium’s goals include enhancing training programs to prepare women for apprenticeship, exploring “myths and realities” about occupations within targeted industries, providing technical assistance to employers and unions on recruitment strategies to increase the number of women in “apprenticeable and nontraditional occupations,” and coordinating networks for female professionals in apprenticeship programs.

Given the labor challenges that were exacerbated by the pandemic, Blumer says the national effort “is very timely and very needed and we’re very excited to take this brand-new approach.”

The consortium will be funded through August 2023 with the federal grant, the release shows.

WRTP | BIG STEP was formed by the partnership between the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership and the Building Industry Group Skilled Trades Employment Program, formalized in 2014 when the organizations merged their boards of directors.

See details in a release: https://www.wispolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/WRTP_WANTO_disruptHER_PressRelease_FINAL.pdf

See more on WRTP | BIG STEP here: https://wrtp.org/about/