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Philadelphia Works is partnering with Comcast for the city’s first ‘pay for success’ job training program

The nonprofit will be prepping folks to be hired as salespeople at Comcast, including those with varying degrees of education and those looking to make a mid-career change.

Comcast HQ. (Photo by Flickr user Ryan Hallock, used under a Creative Commons license)

This editorial article is a part of's Workforce Development Month of our editorial calendar.

In September of 2018, reskilling and job training nonprofit Philadelphia Works received a grant from the Sorenson Impact Center and nonprofit Social Finance to develop a public-private partnership within the city. The grant, worth up to $420,000, has helped Philadelphia Works develop a “pay for success” (PFS) program to get local residents into steady jobs.

At the Future of Work Summit on Wednesday evening, Philadelphia Works President and CEO H. Patrick Clancy talked details of the deal it made with Comcast, and how over the next several months, both organizations will be working together to train cohorts of individuals who are registered with recruitment assistance service PA CareerLink and in the Philadelphia Works system to become salespeople at the telecommunications giant.

Philadelphia has seen job training programs before, but this type of pay for success model has yet to be piloted here — one in which a nonprofit (in this case, Philadelphia Works via the grant) fronts the costs of training folks for a specific job (in this case, to work in sales at Comcast) but will eventually be paid back by a for-profit organization (again, Comcast) that benefits from the training.

“PFS unites three key stakeholders — investors, service providers and government — leveraging private capital to scale effective programs and focus project partners on results,” Sorenson said last year when the program was announced.

(Pay for success has been implemented in different forms locally, including the state’s two PFS projects aimed at curbing recidivism rates by scaling programs from nonprofits Center for Employment Opportunities and Youth Advocate Programs. It’s often seen as a more efficient way for governments to test social good programs without paying for experimentation upfront.)

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia was an early partner in the project, as President and CEO Patrick T. Harker told that the institution’s main interest is in the general economic success and opportunity across the region.

Clancy and Bill Strahan, the EVP of human resources for Comcast Cable, talked details of the partnership during this week’s summit.

Together, the goal is to train and then place about 75 workers in Comcast sales roles, with cohorts of seven to 10 people at a time, at the rate that Comcast needs to hire. Clancy said the corporation expects the first cohort to begin training at the end of this year for early 2020 job placement.

This opportunity is open to a wide range of people — those with varying degrees of education, those looking to make a mid-career change, or those who wouldn’t usually end up in Comcast’s talent pool.

“If people have the right skill, regardless of where they came from, they’re in,” Clancy said. About that “pay for success” phrasing, he added, it’s very much a pilot that could inform future such programs: “As we get paid back by Comcast, we’ll have another pot of money to use for another project. The lessons we’ll learn will help us with the next company.”

Clancy said one of the major lessons learned over the course of this project thus far is to plan for delays in progress.

“It’s so new and so different,” Clancy said, “that a workforce development organization is working together with a private venture.”

Ashley Putnam, director of the Economic Growth & Mobility Project of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, was essential in bringing the opportunity to Philadelphia and wants to scale it across cities across the county, the pair said.

Strahan said that it can be easy to put aspects of workforce systems in a box.

“Like a lot of things in business, when you take a long-term investment view, [you] sometimes have to remind people there’s more than one focal length,” he said. “Sure, we could hire people like we normally do, or we can help prime the pump for a different system, a different pipeline.”

Companies: Comcast / Philadelphia Works
Series: Workforce Development Month 2019

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