Connecting young people to opportunity and employers to talent - Generocity Philly

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Mar. 1, 2021 11:21 am

Connecting young people to opportunity and employers to talent

A new initiative from Philadelphia Youth Network will focus on providing “opportunity youth” (youth ages 16 to 24 who are neither in school nor working) with programming that can reconnect them to the workforce.

Nina Z., a WorkReady participant, outside City Hall after the 2020 #ALLin4WorkReady campaign, where she shared her experiences and the ways other young people can benefit from programming that can reconnect them to the workforce.

(Courtesy photo)

The Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN) has received a two-year, $1 million grant from JP Morgan Chase to provide employment opportunities for young people and support PYN’s efforts to close the talent gap.

The grant will allow PYN to facilitate year-round programming in the tech and healthcare industries — resulting in 100 job placements upon program completion. This new initiative will focus on providing “opportunity youth” (youth ages 16 to 24 who are neither in school nor working) with programming that can reconnect them to the workforce.

“We deliberately chose these industries as the focus for this initiative,” said Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend, PYN’s president and CEO. “In Philadelphia, tech and healthcare make up fully 25% of the labor market, and both are areas of growth and rapid change. We wanted to make sure that our young people can compete in a swiftly changing work climate, and that area employers are able to find well-trained employees for industries which are in desperate need. This training program is unique because it is intentionally sector-driven.”

PYN constructs systems to create change, while innovating to meet evolving needs. Together with a group of trusted partners, it aims to change the trajectory of individuals’ lives by giving voice to underserved youth, and to ultimately create a pipeline for an educated, engaged workforce.

This initiative represents a two-year planning process which examined both sides of the challenge — developing core competencies through youth training programs and determining the needs of the workforce. Core partners for this initiative include District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund, JEVS Human Services and The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, in addition to West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, Philadelphia Works and the Department of Commerce, among others. Each partner brings a unique strength and role in the youth workforce development system to this work.

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“Access to the skills that lead to living-wage, in-demand jobs for young adults in our region has to be central to any economic recovery plan,” said Jay Spector, president and CEO of JEVS Human Services. “The pandemic deepened the divide between the those with and without skills and those with and without pathways to good jobs, which is why JEVS is excited to be a partner in this effort. We hope that by bringing employers with middle skill jobs to fill together with the right workforce partners, more Philadelphia youth can realize long-term employment success — and success in life.”

The COVID-19 pandemic showed that disruption can occur any time, and in any sector.

“Traditional training programs often simply focus on specific training, and stop there,” said Fulmore-Townsend. “We want to go beyond that, and to become better ongoing assessors of what both employees and employers need. Future employees will acquire more direct work skills, which leads to a career path as opposed to a low-level job, and employers will get a more work-ready candidate.”

Fulmore-Townsend added: “We feel that this initiative will allow PYN to both improve the quality of training offered, and then to help the partners to apply that training and take the next step. If we can create a bank of lessons learned through this initiative, we can then utilize any promising practices to expand the program to other local industries. The JPMorgan Chase gift is a game-changing investment in both the disenfranchised youth of Philadelphia and a struggling local economy, and we are excited by the possibilities it offers.”

“This investment is part of our initiative over the next five years to develop, test and scale innovative efforts that prepare individuals with the skills they need to be successful in a rapidly changing economy,” said Daniel Okonkwo, vice president for JPMorgan Chase Corporate Responsibility and Office of Nonprofit Engagement. “We recognized that partnering with the Philadelphia Youth Network, who already has a heart for this work and the network to make it happen, was one of the best things we could do for the Philadelphia area.”

“One of the really exciting things about this partnership is that this grant to PYN is not simply a job investment, it’s a career and community investment,” he added.

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