How do you get Philadelphians into jobs within stable, growing employment sectors, and how do you do it quickly?
Workforce development organization Philadelphia Works will be deploying strategies around this goal over the next three years, thanks to a grant from the US Economic Development Administration (EDA) as part of its Good Jobs Challenge.
PhilaWorks already offers training and professional development resources to Philadelphians. But this specific plan will target three industries — healthcare and life sciences, energy, and infrastructure, the org’s VP of operations and data, Patricia Blumenauer, told Technical.ly.
PhilaWorks was granted $22.7 million toward this initiative, and was one of 32 organizations across the country given resources through the Good Jobs Challenge, which itself was funded by $500 million earmarked by the American Rescue Plan.
PhilaWorks began putting a plan together to submit to the EDA last October, working with six surrounding counties to identify the needs and workforce holes in the region. It identified three main organizations that will manage the granular work in each of the selected industries: West Philadelphia Skills Initiative will work on healthcare and life sciences training, Philadelphia Energy Authority will develop clean energy training, and the Philadelphia Area Labor Management Committee will lead the infrastructure training, specifically in construction. PhilaWorks will manage the grant and coordinate the three pillar organizations.
The overall idea is to increase short-term training opportunities that lead to good jobs. That could mean a high-paying, stable construction job, or maybe a lab tech position — roles where there’s room for upward trajectory and high need.
What’s unique about this grant, Blumenauer said, is that it comes with a one-year planning period. So, over the course of the next year, PhilaWorks and its partner organizations will get time to “be very intentional” about the use of the funds and the curriculum for the training organizations.
“You’re often expected to hit the ground running,” Blumenauer said.
As part of the grant proposal, PhilaWorks got local employers signed on to hear what types of workers they’d need and the availability for life-sustaining jobs they’d have. The org partnered with consulting firm McKinsey to do a deep dive of the region, which led to the three industries chosen.
Some of the employers that have already signed up include CHOP, PECO, Solar States, Crozier Health Center, Adapt Immune and Tower Health. After the one-year planning period, Blumenauer said the aim is to get 3,000 people into jobs over the following two years.
Another exciting piece of the plan is working with community organizations to offer wraparound services that will increase the chance of success for those going through training, Blumenauer said. That means looking at at the neighborhoods and populations participating to see what could be standing in the way of succeeding at a job in these sectors, like childcare access or reliable public transportation.
While the plan will be funded over three years, Blumenauer said it would be even better if it continues past 2025.
“For success, the biggest piece will be if this has gone as we’ve expected — we have training programs up and running, we’re getting people into jobs, but we’ve also figured out how to keep this going beyond the grant,” she said.
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