Workforce development has been a focal point of Greater Philadelphia’s economic recovery, with a number of training programs popping up over the past year to engage those who lost their jobs during the pandemic.
The latest proposed solution is a platform that aims to digitally convene jobseekers, employers and workforce development programs for the sake of raising visibility of opportunities.
Employer coalition Hire! Philly launched PropelPHL on Wednesday with sponsorship from the Lenfest Foundation, PECO, Starbucks and the City of Philadelphia’s City Council. The platform, which is free to use, allows jobseekers to create profiles highlighting their experience and skills, and allows employers to post open roles. There’s also a page listing dozens of training programs, such as an ASL certificate from Community College of Philadelphia and an automotive repair degree from Lincoln Tech.
Hire! Philly Executive Director Kathryn Epps Roberson said during a virtual launch event that she believes PropelPHL fills an access gap by connecting jobseekers to well-paying positions, as well as programs where they can train for jobs that will pay better.
“From the beginning, we knew this work required community engagement and wanted to make sure we had clear input from those around us,” she said. “Community members debunked the myth that they don’t want to go back to work. We also found out that [better] wage rates and benefits are of the utmost benefit to job seekers. Jobseekers don’t want to go back to jobs that are paying minimum wage. Workforce development is a form of economic development and lifting people out of poverty.”
Jobs currently posted on the site range from server to nursing assistant to software developer. It’s worth noting that several of the positions don’t list salary, so the user doesn’t know if a given position pays better than minimum wage, though every post viewed by this reporter did offer healthcare benefits (and many included signing bonuses).
The PropelPHL program team currently reviews each employer that requests to register on the platform and vets their legitimacy before allowing them to register, Roberson told Technical.ly. The platform is currently not requiring employers to input salary data, and Roberson said her team is currently testing this format to gain insights on how many and which employers voluntarily provide that information.
“We will make this a requirement in the near future if we deem it necessary,” she said.
PropelPHL will roll out new “phases” on an ongoing basis to engage specific groups, featuring “additional features that create micro experiences,” Roberson said. The first phase has an emphasis on helping people from marginalized Philadelphia communities that were negatively impacted by the pandemic over the last year reengage with the workforce. The second will focus on bringing high school students into the talent pipeline earlier — “If a student isn’t going into a college program, they’re positioned to go directly into the workforce with a high-wage job in high demand,” she said. The third will focus on helping returning citizens and former military personnel find jobs, and the fourth will “launch industry hubs for career exploration.”
Roberson said the platform’s job feed will be updated daily, and thousands of jobs are currently on the platform. Employers can add and update their own job listings. And unlike job aggregator sites like Indeed, skills will be searchable, as opposed to keyword searches.
The platform will be used to track the success of job candidates as they pursue new professional opportunities, Roberson said.
“From day one, we’ll be looking at who is going on the platform, what areas they’re from, their skills [and more] while simultaneously looking at the data for the employers and how we can facilitate those matches,” she said. “As we’re tracking that on a database, we can tweak our approach.”
To get support in using the digital platform IRL, 11 local Free Library of Philadelphia branches, or “PropelPHL Points,” will be set up for people to use the digital platform in addition to in-person support from individuals on how to access community and personal resources.
Michael Butler is a 2020-2021 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. -30-