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Urban League of Greater Madison Expands Career Training Academies to Address Local Business Needs

Madison, WI—The Urban League of Greater Madison has devised a way to help address southern Wisconsin’s workforce needs while training unemployed and underemployed community members for good paying career pathway jobs.

The nonprofit organization, which maintains close ties with businesses throughout Madison and the surrounding areas, has seen growing interest from local businesses in a small-scale Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) internship project it had been running in partnership with the Dane County Highway and Transportation Department and the Latino Academy for Workforce Development. The Urban League also noted there was an opportunity for new jobs in the country’s ongoing transition to solar and other renewable energies.

In response, the Urban League plans to develop and implement short-term, intensive training academies for careers in the CDL and solar installation and related renewable energy fields over the next two years. A $250,000 grant from fellow Madison nonprofit Ascendium Education Group will support both academies. Part of the funding will allow the Urban League to grow its small CDL project from training just two to four people per year, to training at least 45 CDL drivers over the next two years. This will also help address the shortage of drivers that has been a big contributor to nationwide supply chain delays.

“We’ve long admired the Urban League of Greater Madison’s efforts to increase socioeconomic mobility in our community and share with them a belief in the power of education and training beyond high school to transform lives,” says Ascendium Vice President - Education Philanthropy Amy Kerwin. “We’re pleased to be able to contribute resources that help them expand access to such opportunities.”

The Urban League is on a mission to ensure that African Americans and other community members are educated, employed and empowered to live well, advance professionally and contribute to the common good. The training academies are part of its workforce demand-driven approach to delivering employment services to low-income, unemployed and underemployed adults. Despite complications caused by the COVID-19 health crisis, the organization has placed more than 1,500 learners from low-income backgrounds into new or better career pathway jobs in the past three years alone.

Through its two new academies, the Urban League aims to help at least 100 unemployed or underemployed adults obtain an industry recognized credential and/or secure new or better employment in the next two years. According to Dr. Ruben L. Anthony, Jr., president and CEO of the Urban League, the programs — and the support — could not have been better timed.

“Employers across the region are facing a shortage of CDL drivers for existing jobs, while the transition to renewable energy is expected to create many new jobs,” says Dr. Anthony. “The Urban League’s workforce development platform is designed to be responsive to these industry needs. These funds from Ascendium will help us serve as a bridge between employers and job seekers and ensure equitable access to these good careers. The funds will also help deepen our collaboration with the Latino Academy for Workforce Development as we work together to build a more inclusive ecosystem of workforce development programming for the region.”

Learn more about Ascendium’s grants to local nonprofit organizations.