Philadelphia Works, Inc.: A Revamped Jobs Engine to Get Philly WorkingBy Erin Kane |
In July, Philadelphia Workforce Development Corporation and the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board became one lean, streamlined nonprofit called Philadelphia Works, Inc.
Tasked with boosting the local workforce and providing area businesses with skilled workers, the organization’s charge is not an easy one, especially in a lackluster economy. But the restructuring is an important first step.
The long-planned Philadelphia Works, Inc. is more agile and draws on pooled resources, aligning itself with the city’s economic development initiatives for strategic growth.
Two years ago, on a mission to create jobs, Mayor Nutter set out to close gaps and trim redundancies that slowed the former workforce system. Seeking widespread support for his retooled initiative, he appointed new leadership pulled from the private sector and tapped a seasoned executive to oversee the merger.
“The Mayor wanted to make workforce development part of his signature thrust,” said Mark Edwards, President and CEO of Philadelphia Works, Inc., who was chosen for the top post in December 2010. “The old system was cumbersome and complex. Too many people and sites were responsible for similar tasks.”
Before, the workforce system’s fiscal and policy arms were separate. They now work in tandem. Six citywide EARN Centers — providing holistic job support to cash assistance recipients — are dialoging with referral partners and collaborators. And all five PA CareerLinks, one-stop-shops for job seekers, were outsourced through a competitive process. Philadelphia Works, Inc. hopes the changes yield better results. “Our goal is to meet the needs of people at a time when they need it most,” Edwards added.
According to recent data, unemployment in Philadelphia has reached 10.7 percent — far higher than the statewide average — which has deep implications for many local neighborhoods.
People for People, Inc., a Philadelphia-based nonprofit supporting families, runs an EARN Center in North Philadelphia. During an average week, roughly 40 people pass through its doors. Some are assessed as “fast trackers,” with an employable set of skills at the outset. Others need comprehensive support and training to reach a degree of employability. Overall, roughly half find employment.
“It’s a partnership,” said Director Donovan West of his relationship with job-seeking clients. They are referred from a nearby county assistance office that provides cash assistance and other services.
Once job seekers are linked to the EARN Center, West and his staff identify their interests and qualifications, ultimately hoping to match them with a private sector or “pipeline” employer — many of whom are active partners. “With pipeline employers, we can feed them candidates and create more of a direct fit,” he said.
PA CareerLinks, a statewide initiative, are similar to EARN Centers but are open to anyone who needs help finding work or employment-related resources. Online support supplements traditional bricks-and-mortar locations.
Doing more with less
A core component of Philadelphia Works, Inc. is a strategic approach to engage businesses and “fill job orders,” said Edwards. “The workforce is changing and we need to understand how to connect to it and fill the training gap.”
It also has to do more with less — 48 percent less. Significant cuts nearly halved the organization’s budget, which is now around $50 million and sourced mainly from federal, state and city dollars. Privately raised funds support education and training programs.
“We have to be smarter about our deployment of resources, but we are committed to delivering a system that is impactful, transparent and accountable,” added Edwards.
On the horizon is a targeted campaign to reach private-sector employers and a stronger social media presence to exchange ideas with partners and the public. The nonprofit is also seeking input from employers and educators to identify in-demand jobs and growth sectors over the next ten years.
While there are many elements, Philadelphia Works, Inc. is a big piece of the workforce development puzzle — matching qualified candidates with family sustaining jobs is an effort that requires multiple players.
Yet the merged organization appears poised for the challenge. “We are something new and exciting that brings energy to the system and the city,” Edwards said.blog comments powered by Disqus