Public Policy Forum Blog

Forum research helps guide City action on Residents Preference Program

Yesterday morning, the City of Milwaukee’s Workforce Organizational Reform Committee approved a broad set of changes to the Residents Preference Program (RPP), which links public investments with construction jobs for city residents. Those changes reflect several key recommendations from Locally Sourced, our recent report that analyzed the City’s RPP program and considered options for strengthening it during a period of booming local development.

Among the proposed changes are the following:

  • A greater emphasis would be placed on hiring residents from areas of the city suffering from the highest rates of poverty and unemployment. The proposal would require that at least 25% of the hours worked by RPP workers on eligible construction projects are completed by individuals residing in census tracts with the highest poverty rates in the city. Our analysis found that similar hiring programs in other U.S. cities often have requirements that specifically target residents of distressed neighborhoods, and we recommended that the City establish requirements that more specifically target the populations with the greatest needs.
  • Apprenticeship requirements will be strengthened with the aim of helping more city residents build careers in the construction trades. Whereas previously, contractors were not required to utilize apprentices who were RPP certified, the proposal states that 25% of the hours worked by apprentices on eligible projects must now be completed by RPP-certified city residents. Our research found that very few apprentices on recent City-financed construction projects were RPP certified and recommended that the program be strengthened to ensure that it not only connects city residents with jobs, but also provides opportunities for long-term career development.
  • A public-private RPP Review Commission made up of a diverse group of stakeholders will be established to help monitor and refine program requirements over time. Our report found that targeted hiring programs in other cities have found value in establishing such commissions, as they improve communication among stakeholders and ensure that the program is in tune with conditions in the local market and with the broader workforce development system.

Stay tuned as the proposed ordinance changes move next to the City’s Community and Economic Development Committee and ultimately to the full Common Council.

Joe Peterangelo