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MadREP Pilot to Encourage Vanpooling in Madison Region

With Wisconsin experiencing record low unemployment levels, businesses across the state are struggling to fill open positions and, in many cases, to retain the employees they already have. talent development commute enterprise logo

One challenge many employees face is reliable transportation to their places of work. For others who are currently not employed but would like to be, the lack of transportation options is often a major contributor to them remaining out of the workforce.

To help both existing employees and potential employees who are facing transportation challenges, the Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP) is partnering with Commute with Enterprise to provide an innovative and sustainable shared mobility option: vanpooling.

“MadREP’s pilot will provide $500 per van per month for up to three van pools to help underwrite the cost to our partners and participants,” said MadREP President and CEO Jason M. Fields. “Each vanpool is customized to the specific needs of its five or more vanpoolers. The remaining cost will be covered by company, the vanpool riders, or a combination of the two as determined by each company.”

“With record low unemployment and in an effort to keep their shifts full, many employers are looking into providing benefits they may not have considered before,” said MadREP V.P. of Talent & Education Gene Dalhoff. “Our pilot project is meant to provide an incentive to companies to explore the feasibility of using employee van pools to help with employee retention and attraction.”

“Dane County’s rapid growth requires innovative solutions to address public transportation needs outside of Madison and I applaud MadREP’s pilot workplace vanpooling program to open up more options for employers to connect their employees to work in a way that is better for the environment,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “Making these connections will help Dane County stay on track with our climate action plan to reduce emissions and ensure that Dane County continues to be a great place to live and work.”

Companies and vanpool groups can choose a qualifying vanpool vehicle from Enterprise’s selection of makes and models that includes crossovers, SUVs, minivans, and large passenger vans. Vanpoolers may choose to upgrade their vehicles with optional high-end features such as satellite radio, in-vehicle Wi-Fi service and power ports for individual seats.

Commute with Enterprise also provides 24-hour roadside assistance, liability insurance and maintenance. And as part of Enterprise’s Complete Clean Pledge, Commute with Enterprise provides best practices for cleaning and Complete Clean Starter Kits for new Commutes to ensure vehicle cleanliness.

“This pilot project, although limited in size, is meant to serve as a proof of concept to help demonstrate the benefits to companies of such a program,” said Fields. “Our goal will be to secure additional funds to grow the program exponentially over the next 12-24 months.”

Companies and commuters in the Madison Region interested in joining the program can visit commutewithenterprise.com/commute/en/partners/madrep.html.

Wisconsin State Journal | Jason M. Fields: Help more people of color seek STEM careers

Wisconsin State Journal & madison.com cobrand logo

Some days, I feel like crying. Some days, I feel like shouting. So many days I ask myself, “Are they even listening?”

Federal, state and local leaders need to consider the harm of not facilitating economic development strategies that help people of color establish sustainable ecosystems to empower them to create wealth.

For a community to create wealth, it needs a workforce that can withstand the test and trials of an economic downturn and, as we found out in 2020, a worldwide pandemic.

Black and Hispanic workers continue to be underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). This also is true of computing positions, which have significantly increased in recent years.

According to Pew Research Center, Hispanic adults have a substantial disparity in STEM workforce representation. Hispanic workers make up 17% of the entire workforce across all occupations, but only 8% of STEM workers. Their share of all STEM workers has increased by 1% since 2016, in line with their overall workforce growth.

Black employees account for 11% of all employed people, but only 9% of workers in STEM fields. Furthermore, their participation is lower in some STEM employment clusters, with only 5% in engineering and architecture jobs. Since 2016, the percentage of Black workers in STEM jobs has been unchanged.

Pew Research Center also tells us white workers account for two-thirds of STEM workers (67%) compared to 63% across all occupations. Engineers and architects are disproportionately white workers (71%). On the other hand, they make up 62% of computer workers, which is a minor underrepresentation. Since 2016, the white percentage of employment in STEM occupation clusters has decreased, following the overall reduction in white employment across all occupations.

When compared to their 6% share of overall employment across all occupations, Asian employees are overrepresented in STEM occupations, accounting for 13% of workers. About 3% of STEM employees are Native American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander or those who identify with two or more racial groupings.

Let’s assume we recognize the advantages of having STEM workers. Let’s also assume we already understand that our communities collectively benefit when we empower people of color, including Black and Indigenous people, with opportunities to be successful. Then why are we not seeing more dollars and policies targeting these communities, which would do just that — create wealth?

As president and CEO of the Madison Region Economic Partnership, my first responsibility is to ask and answer the question: “Is our region a great place to live, work and play?” My second is to evaluate, “for whom?”

The Wisconsin State Journal recently reported that “Wisconsin received close to $2.5 billion in federal relief funds through the American Rescue Plan Act. All told, the state has been allocated more than $4.5 billion in federal coronavirus stimulus funds.”

Given the growing opportunities to support people of color through economic development strategies and policies that prioritize funding STEM-related endeavors, it would be a huge loss if in 10 years we looked back on this moment in history and realized that the billions in American Rescue Plan Act dollars generated no return on investment for communities of color.

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