Tom Barrett took office as Mayor of Milwaukee in the spring of 2004. Shortly afterward, there were several violent incidents involving teens that led Mayor Barrett to seek funding to support a summer jobs program. With this goal in mind he launched the Mayor’s EARN & LEARN program in 2005, originally established as the SYIP | Summer Youth Internship Program. Supported with State and Community Development Block Grant funding, SYIP gave youth interns work assignments in over a dozen City of Milwaukee departments and bureaus. Those young people had great experiences working in city government and that exposure trained and developed them as better students and leaders.
In 2006, Johnson Controls Inc. approached Mayor Barrett about creating a signature conservancy program that would be called the Milwaukee Conservation Leadership Corps (MCLC) through which young people are provided sector-based work experience in environmental sustainability in conjunction with the Milwaukee County Parks Department. JCI has marshalled this dynamic training program with a unique brand of career exploration and on-the-job experience for scores of Milwaukee area teens.
In 2007, the Mayor was enjoined to the Employ Milwaukee Workforce Development as their lead elected official. That same year, this federally supported workforce development agency reestablished another aspect of the EARN & LEARN program known as, CWE | Community Work Experience. It has become the best “first job” opportunity for many disenfranchised youth that desperately need the work experience to get a head start on the road to becoming an adult as part of our future workforce.
In 2008, Mayor Barrett began another area of youth job development through his PSJC | Private Sector Job Connection in partnership with Milwaukee area businesses, broadening the work opportunities to include jobs for teens in the private sector.
By 2011, it had become increasingly difficult to identify adequate funding sources to maintain summer employment opportunities for as many teens that were relying on the EARN & LEARN program to provide them jobs Mayor Barrett created the Mayor’s EARN & LEARN Fund to secure additional funding for subsidized youth employment through the Community Work Experience component of the program.
From humble beginnings and with a goal to create hope in the lives of young people, EARN & LEARN has grown since 2005 by putting more than 28,000 Milwaukee area teens to work.