Feb. 12, 2015 12:04 pm

JOIN Spurs Workforce Development With $200,000 in Planning Grants

JOIN awards four organizations one-year $50,000 grants to find innovative approaches to workforce development.

, a public-private partnership invested in workforce development, has awarded four $50,000 planning grants to Philadelphia-based organizations through its WIN WIN Challenge.

The winning grantees are Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC), South Kensington Community Partners (SKCP), Community College of Philadelphia, and University City District.

Each grantee will pursue their respective workforce partnership ideas for a one-year period. At the end of the yearlong planning phase, JOIN will award two-year, $300,000 implementation grants to up to two partnerships that demonstrate the most potential.

JOIN, which formed in 2008, consists of United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, William Penn Foundation, Scattergood Foundation, Knight Foundation, PA Department of Labor and Philadelphia Works, Inc.

Early education

PHMC, a public health organization with over 250 programs, plans to examine the early childhood education workforce by “collecting data, convening stakeholders, and understanding where the ‘gaps’ exist,” said Natalie Renew, the managing director of early childhood education at PHMC.

“High quality child care is essential to every sector of our workforce,” Renew said.

However, according to recent data, only 15 percent of child care slots in the city are designated as high quality, she said. To receive a high quality rating, child care facilities must earn a score of 3 or 4 — out of 4 — from the statewide quality rating system, Keystone STARS.

PHMC is already working with a number of early childhood employers and plans to use the grant to better understand their needs, including how to help current workers obtain training and higher education credentials. Both are crucial for child care facilities seeking to improve their STARS rating.

“We know that this workforce needs a lot of support,” Renew said. “It’s a very low-paying industry.”

As expectations around the quality of care and staff credentials increase, those advances will hopefully result in higher compensation for early childhood workers, she said.

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“They are preparing young minds, so this workforce is really critical to our success,” Renew added.

A place-based approach

Different from PHMC’s industry-specific focus is South Kensington Community Partners (SKCP), a grantee whose approach is place-based. The organization is focused on the South Kensington neighborhood, which spans from Girard to Berks and from Front to 6th Streets, where it works to connect residents to resources and catalyze community engagement.

South Kensington was once a manufacturing powerhouse, and jobs there came with a range of support services. When that changed, “there was a vacuum,” said Emily Kerr, the executive director for SKCP.

The area has since experienced new development, and many small and mid-sized businesses are looking to hire local people, citing their dependability and specific skill sets, such as language proficiencies, according to Kerr.

With support from JOIN, SKCP is exploring ways to prepare and connect local job seekers to the businesses that want to hire them.

“Our opportunity is to say, ‘Okay, [manufacturing] is no longer our reality, but we can build on that legacy of active makers in this community, with the diversity and history of oldcomers and newcomers together, and help cultivate really equitable economic development,” Kerr added.

Skills training

The additional grantees, Community College of Philadelphia and University City District, plan to examine ways to help workers advance in the manufacturing industry and develop fee-for-service horticulture contracts.

Along with grant funds, JOIN will offer support and technical assistance to the four winning organizations.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to experiment with fresh ideas that could potentially jumpstart our economy,” said Jennie Sparandara, the director of JOIN, in a statement.

“JOIN’s goal is to build more industry-led partnerships so that more Philadelphians can acquire the skills they need to achieve and maintain financial stability.”

Image via Mo Manklang


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