An unlikely alliance to connect Milwaukee job-seekers to employers

By Michael Jahr of Wisconsin Policy Research Institute Inc.

Christopher Lane’s employment prospects were bleak. In 2015, the 45-year-old former felon lost a Milwaukee city government job when he was arrested on a charge that later was dropped. With a 20-year prison term for armed robbery on his record, Lane found his opportunities limited to temp work and side jobs.

Then a chance encounter rekindled his hope.

“I was going to see my probation officer when I ran into an old friend,” Lane says. That friend, Willie McShan, told him about the Joseph Project, an unusual partnership between an urban Milwaukee church, a handful of Sheboygan County manufacturers and a U.S. senator’s office.

The career placement project had helped McShan, 53, land a full-time job with Nemak, an automotive components manufacturer in Sheboygan. The position paid nearly $15 an hour, much more than he had been making at temp jobs. Better yet, it provided stability, benefits and opportunities for overtime.