The City of Milwaukee faces devastating rates of poverty, crime, and unemployment. Many times, a steady job is the largest obstacle for men and women to provide for their families and find stability. While unemployment is high in Milwaukee, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, has been adding jobs at nearly double the statewide pace, resulting in a labor shortage. Without reliable transportation, many unemployed individuals are cut off from employment opportunities right outside the city.
The Joseph Project serves the Milwaukee job seeker by offering a week-long job training boot camp and connecting job-seekers to employment opportunities outside the city. The week-long class teaches critical soft skills key to employment success, including financial management, conflict resolution, stress management, spiritual fitness, goal setting, time management, and interview skills. Because transportation to jobs outside the city is vital, the Joseph Project operates daily shuttles that transport employees to various work sites. For example, Sheboygan, a small city just north of Milwaukee, has been adding jobs at nearly twice the rate of the state, resulting in a labor shortage. By partnering with employers willing to take a chance on individuals with a criminal record, the Joseph Project connects participants to real, existing job opportunities just outside the city. More than transforming individual lives, the Joseph Project is renewing the city of Milwaukee. The economic impact is saving the county millions of dollars as citizens become financially independent instead of relying on welfare programs.
Founded in 2015, the Joseph Project has grown quickly. To date, 182 participants have completed the program, 115 have secured jobs, and 88 are still working. With an astounding 70+ percent job retention rate, the Joseph Project is witnessing the power of stable employment to restore dignity and impact an entire family. The transformational impact of the program has led participants to develop a sense of ownership over the Joseph Project, ensuring the growing employment network is sustainable and successful. Many employees continue using Joseph Project shuttles to maintain the unique sense of community fostered by the program.
In an effort to combat crime, drugs, and violence in their community, Pastor Jerome Smith and Orlando Owens convened community leaders to discuss ways to serve men, women, and families. Realizing employment is the most critical step to stability, Pastor Smith and Owens started connecting men to job opportunities in nearby Sheboygan with the help of U.S. Senator Ron Johnson whom Owens recently began working for. Before they knew it, they were teaching soft skills in a week-long and shuttling workforce to nearby manufacturing jobs. Today, the Joseph Project is continuing to build more employment partnerships and planning to expand the program to other nearby cities.
The Joseph Project is a 2017 S+ Catalyst. Through participation in the Catalyst Program, Joseph Project receives training from industry experts in organizational development, branding, measurement and growth, and strategic relationships to amplify their impact and strategically expand their reach.