The Joseph Project

Serving the milwaukee job seeker through training and transportation
I have been through a lot of jobs program but nothing like the Joseph Project. They are in it for you, not for themselves.
– Willie McShan

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 Solution

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.

The Story

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.

Stand Together Foundation PARTNERSHIP

The Joseph Project is a 2017 Stand Together Foundation 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.


Milwaukee, Wisconsin
est. 2015
Pastor Jerome Smith
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Pastor Jerome Smith Sr. was born in Chicago, Illinois. He accepted Christ as his personal Savior in 1997, after God spared his life from a suicide attempt. Pastor Smith acknowledged his call to the ministry and he became a licensed minister in 2007. He started Greater Praise COGIC in his home with only three people in attendance in 2014. Within weeks, the church outgrew the home and had their initial service at their permanent location with more than 100 in attendance. Pastor Smith has held various leadership positions in his community. He received a GED at the age of 26, and earned a bachelor’s degree in finance in 2011 from Woodfield University. Pastor Smith is married with five children.
Orlando Owens
Regional Director
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Orlando Owens is the regional director of the Joseph Project. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business from Morris Brown College in Atlanta and has worked in social services and corporate America for over 13 years. Owens is a newly ordained Elder of the C.O.G.I.C. under Bishop Sedgwick Daniels of Wisconsin First Jurisdiction. Owens is also the Hope of Glory District President of Missions under Superintendent Williams. Owens is newly married to Kenya Fowlkes-Owens and a father of Travion Owens.
Success Metrics
Program participants in first year and a half
Job retention rate
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