ST. FRANCIS — Dwayne McDonald II vividly remembers the feeling of not having a job – or the skills to look into finding one that would adequately help him transition into adulthood.
McDonald, a specialist with a statewide effort known as the Wisconsin Fatherhood Initiative, was one of a number of professionals on Saturday, Oct. 29 at the Cousins Center, lending support to job seekers looking for sustainability and a fresh start to their lives.
“This is an opportunity to help people who might need some assistance,” McDonald said. “It can benefit people looking for work and employers who are looking to expand. This is all about getting the first foot in the door and see what possibilities are out there.”
The Milwaukee Archdiocese partnered with the nonprofit Milwaukee Transitional Jobs Collaborative, an organization formed out of the Public Policy Institute, for the job fair. The archdiocese’s Office of Social Justice Ministry had a pivotal role in planning the event.
During the job fair, the organizations collectively touted the benefit of transitional jobs – wage-paying positions that give low-income, unemployed men and women an opportunity to do useful work in order to support themselves and their families.
McDonald said the job fair was born out of a desire to expand and improve the efforts the Wisconsin Fatherhood Initiative and Milwaukee Transitional Jobs Collaborative have embarked upon to improve the jobless epidemic in Milwaukee.
“This is really about helping people lead sustainable lives,” McDonald said.
The job fair kicked off with a blessing from Bishop Donald J. Hying, who pointed to the Book of Genesis as an example of God’s calling for everybody to work with the talents they possess.
“We are here to make our community better; we want everybody to be gainfully employed,” Bishop Hying said. “Our vision is to build a community of love and respect for one another. The tragedy about unemployment is so many people become marginalized by it.”
Kathy Shine, project coordinator with the Office of Social Justice Ministry, said the job fair was a natural fit for the archdiocese; it was an opportunity for Catholics to live out their faith by upholding the dignity of work.
More than 300 job seekers on marginal incomes visited with nearly 20 employers and a number of agencies to learn about available jobs despite ongoing economic woes.
An array of local employers in a number of sectors was on hand at the fair, including Med Group Home Health Care, Patrick Cudahy, Scotty’s Construction and Weather Tight Corp. Job openings included a number of entry-level positions, as well as ones calling for more experience.
McDonald said he and other organizers extended invitations to a variety of local employers and organizations, getting a pulse for where work was needed and in what specialty areas. Planning for the job fair began in June.
Several organizations associated with transitional jobs also were present at the job fair. Among them: Goodwill Industries, the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, Milwaukee Hunger Task Force and Community Advocates.
The event was not open to the general public, but invitations were extended to people based on referrals through the Milwaukee Transitional Jobs Collaborative. All attendees were currently between jobs and seeking opportunities and skills to become gainfully employed.
In addition to meeting with prospective employers, the job fair included workshops and seminars, touching on networking, résumé writing and communication skills.
A number of dignitaries also were on hand to lend support for the gathering, and the importance of partnering to stem the tide of unemployment and poverty in Milwaukee.
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele lauded the effort and said his office would lend support to work toward job growth initiatives.
“Unemployment is definitely a very serious issue,” Abele said. “You have my promise we will work to increase jobs and improve the economy.”
Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said events such as the job fair are an important part of bettering the community. He asserted that the creation of sustainable jobs and improvement of the local economy inevitably will enhance public safety.
“We have to make opportunities available for everybody,” Chisholm said. “People need to be able to take care of themselves and take care of their families.”