Here is a report of a program which serves, nurtures and supports the life and growth of many individuals by cooperative out-of-the-box thinking. An example for all of us to make good use of many sources and supports. And hopefully, something that can be extended to appropriate services in other areas of the country and the world, in other realms.
‘Five three two oh six. Look it up. We are one of the most incarcerated
zip codes in the country. We have some of the most negative statistics
here in Milwaukee and in Wisconsin,” says Orlando Owens, a community
advocate and until recently the director of African-American outreach
for the Wisconsin Republican Party. “Crime-stricken,” interjects Pastor Jerome Smith,
of the Greater Praise Church of God in Christ. “Murders. Drop-out
rates. Drug addictions,” Mr. Owens continues. “We don’t have a lot of
"The Joseph Project began amid a confluence: Mr. Johnson was traveling
around Wisconsin, and, he says, “not one manufacturer could hire enough
people. But we’ve got all this inner-city unemployment, guys, how can
you make that connection?” Meanwhile, Pastor Smith and Mr. Owens heard
an appeal from the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corp., which
was trying to fill 4,000 factory jobs. They made a tour of companies
like Nemak (auto parts), Pace (aluminum die casting), Kohler (bathroom fixtures) and Johnsonville (sausage).
County is more than an hour’s drive north of Milwaukee, and already on
the ride back Mr. Owens and Pastor Smith were formulating a plan. They
drew on the insights of the black conservative intellectual Bob Woodson,
who in his 2007 book “The Triumphs of Joseph” chronicled “local people
finding local solutions to their local needs in their communities. These
were not big-name organizations and big-name foundations; these were
small ministries, small nonprofits started in someone’s church, started
in someone’s attic, and they went out and did the work,” Mr. Owens says.
duo figured they could connect unemployed or underemployed Milwaukeeans
with the Sheboygan companies and use church vans that were unused
during the workweek for transportation. They devised a week-long
curriculum of workshops, taught by church members and Mr. Johnson’s
Senate staff as a constituent service. The workshops focused on “soft
skills,” like how to interview, the work ethic, financial and time
management, and conflict resolution, Mr. Owens says. “We’re not teaching
them how to weld, how to type—”
“The simple things,” says Pastor Smith.
to the Joseph Project is competitive, and Mr. Owens and Pastor Smith
set high expectations and vet candidates. Those who persevere are
promised an interview with an HR department on Friday, nothing more.
people took part in the first class in October 2015, and 13 were
offered a job and began work. Of the 130 people who have completed the
program, 77 are now working with another 28 offers pending. Wages are
well above the minimum, running between $12.80 and $18.50 an hour, and
the vans run five shifts a day and average 12,000 miles a month.
speaking, the Joseph Project removes friction from the labor market and
solves a human-capital problem for employers. Since the best type of
skills training happens on the job, for workers the program helps break
“the cycle of cycle of poverty and despair,” as Mr. Johnson puts it."
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