The Madison Department of Civil Rights recently announced changes to the Job Skills Bank, including renaming it the Referrals and Interviews for Sustainable Employment, introducing new partnerships and an online referral tool.

The program works to connect individuals seeking employment with companies under contract by the city of Madison.

According to the City of Madison Department of Civil Rights’ website, unemployment in Madison for those who identify as Black or African American is 10.1 percent, and it’s even higher for those who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native, compared to the 3.8 percent unemployed who identify as white.

Norman Davis, Director of the Department of Civil Rights, said the RaISE program really focuses on combating these disparities.

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“Each of the employers that are posting jobs to the RaISE program have an obligation to raise progress to the city’s goals to employ more people of color, women and people with disabilities,” Davis said.

The program, he said, makes connections between the county, its employers and the different communities that live within Madison.

Davis and his team at the Department for Civil Rights aim to positively change Madison’s workforce through the new RaISE job referral program. 

But it isn’t just the DCR that is involved in this new program — the employers and partners are also excited to participate in it. 

The Urban League of Greater Madison serves as a bridge for potential employees and those seeking employment through the RaISE program, said Edward Lee, senior vice president of the Urban League.

The Urban League works with recommending these potential employees to the employers through RaISE. Their mission statement is 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 in the 21st Century,” according to their website.

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Lee believes that the new job referral program will provide the Urban League and other partners with the resources to refer applicants to their potential employers.

Additionally, Lee said the program has the potential to allow for a more systemic and efficient way of providing new opportunities.

“I think that it’s going to be a great program. I think that what’s going to be great about the program is that the system itself is more streamlined and efficient to use,” Lee said. “It has been a pretty manual process up to this point that has involved a lot of pushing papers so the new online tools will make it a lot easier for staff.”