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Waukesha, Sheboygan Counties dealing with worker shortage

Exterior shot of Denali Ingredients
Posted at 6:00 PM, Apr 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-24 19:09:41-04

Waukesha and Sheboygan Counties are dealing with a unique problem: lots of jobs, but not enough workers to fill them.

One barrier to those jobs is transportation. There is no easy way without a reliable vehicle to surrounding counties from densely populated areas like Milwaukee, and access to these jobs are impossible. The Joseph Project is working to change that.

Yolanda Patterson couldn’t find a permanent job in Milwaukee, where she lives.

“I could only find temporary work; you work a day here and there, but nothing permanent.” Patterson said.

Then she found out about the Joseph Project, which connected her with a job in Johnsonville. Johnsonville is about 60 miles away from Patterson’s home. There is no public transportation from Milwaukee to Johnsonville, which would be a problem for Patterson.

“There would be no job for me in Johnsonville because there would be no way for me to get out there. Not Monday through Friday because my husband works in the morning and we only have the one car,” Patterson said.

Pastor Jerome Smith started the Joseph Project to help people in the community because he saw a need that could help curb the problems of the 53206 ZIP code where his church is located. A 2013 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee study found the ZIP code was the most incarcerated ZIP code in the state, with a majority of its men having spent time in jail or prison with a high rate of recidivism and crime.

“The root cause of all that is poverty, so if we put people in great jobs with benefits the crime will decrease.” Smith said.

The program provides training and transportation to jobs in surrounding counties by partnering with organizations. And now it's expanding. Greater Praise Church recently bought a building across the street from the church and plans to create a new program called the Greater Praise Community Development Corporation. That building will also offer transportation to job seekers, but also is planned to house child care, drug screening and a GED program to enhance the jobs many can find.

The program has opened doors to jobs in Sheboygan and Waukesha Counties, like Denali Ingredients in New Berlin, who works with the Joseph Project. Paul Kortman is the director of human resources for Denali Ingredients.

“When we first got involved with the Joseph Project, I looked at bus routes with Pastor Smith to see how a person in his area would get to work by 5 a.m.," Kortman said. "To do it with all transfers in Milwaukee county they’d have to leave at 2am and then walk a mile in whatever weather we were having. It really wasn’t feasible for someone to work here."

With the help of the Joseph Project, many job seekers like Patterson won’t have to worry about transportation being a barrier to a good job. Especially as Project Joseph expands and is able to help more people get access to jobs.