press release

Press Release: WRTP/BIG STEP names interim President and CEO

Mark Kessenich to Lead Organization

By WRTP /BIG STEP – Jul 15th, 2014

July 15, 2014 (Milwaukee, Wis.) – WRTP/BIG STEP, a nationally recognized, local workforce development intermediary announced that Mark Kessenich has been named interim President and CEO effective immediately. Kessenich has held the position of Vice President at WRTP/BIG STEP since 2012, and succeeds Earl Buford after more than 15 years of dedicated service to the organization. Buford was recently appointed President and CEO of the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board (MAWIB), by City of Milwaukee Mayor, Tom Barrett.

“We are grateful to Earl for his leadership, vision, and his ability to help us navigate through the many changes in workforce development over the past decade,” said Mike Fabishak, Co-Chair of the WRTP/BIG STEP Board of Directors. “Earl is a leader in the truest sense of the term, and because of that he is leaving the organization in very capable hands.”

The WRTP/BIG STEP Board is beginning a national search for Earl’s permanent replacement, but unanimously voted to appoint Kessenich as interim President and CEO.

Kessenich joined WRTP/BIG STEP in 2012 as Director of Planning and Development, and was named Vice President later that year. His 17 year-career has focused on meeting workforce needs through planning and policy efforts, while working hand-in-hand with industry and community partners. Prior to joining WRTP/BIG STEP, Kessenich worked as the Director of Planning and Development at the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board where he developed a national reputation for his work and expertise in workforce development. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and serves on a variety of local and national Boards, including the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals.

In 2013, WRTP/BIG STEP exceeded their workforce goals by serving 1862 individuals, placing 743 into careers with an average hourly wage of $17.00. As an industry-led organization, WRTP/BIG STEP’s unique workforce model has allowed them to attain successes garnering them national and local attention including the 2013 Construction Users Roundtable Workforce Development Award, as well as being selected the workforce partner on the Northwestern Mutual Headquarters project in downtown Milwaukee.

Those goals were supported and advanced through Kessenich’s role at the organization, and will continue to be a primary focus in his new role. “I’m honored to be named WRTP/BIG STEP’s interim President and CEO, and to continue working toward our mission,” remarked Kessenich. “We have tremendous industry partners who are committed to building the most skilled, qualified, and diverse workforce in the world. Through their support and leadership, we are able to connect our new workforce to family-supporting careers, and position our current workforce to help our industries compete and grow.”

WRTP/BIG STEP has long been partners with MAWIB, and will continue to work with Buford in his new role to strengthen area workforce development efforts.

“Knowing WRTP/BIG STEP’s capabilities, I am confident we’ll continue building a competitive and more inclusive environment for job creation in manufacturing, construction and emerging sectors of the regional economy,” stated Buford.

“As a long standing and active supporter of WRTP/BIG STEP, we can say with certainty that WRTP/BIG STEP will remain committed to expanding and enhancing our partnerships with key industries and our community,” said Sheila Cochran, Co-Chair of the WRTP/BIG STEP Board of Directors.

“With Mark’s experience and ability to forge successful relationships, we will continue to garner great organizational success and create exponential opportunities for the community and its members now and into the future,” she added.

About WRTP/BIG STEP
The Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership/Building Industry Group’s Skilled Trades Employment Program is an innovative and nationally recognized non-profit workforce intermediary that is Industry-Led, Worker-Centered and Community-Focused. WRTP/BIG STEP’s mission is to enhance the ability of public and private sector organizations to recruit and develop a diverse, qualified workforce in construction, manufacturing and emerging industry sectors of the regional economy.

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