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Steering Through Change: Empowering Philadelphia’s Workforce in an Evolving Job Market

September 27, 2023 Category: FeatureFeaturedSolutions

After the 2008 recession, millions of workers with a high school diploma or less were left behind as the economy and employers recovered to fill needed positions.

Today, in the wake of the pandemic, the employment landscape has changed dramatically. According to a report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), millions of young adults with only a high school diploma or less are entering the workforce in turbulent times and now face a shrinking job market.

At the same time, a Washington Post poll found that “nearly 1 in 3 U.S. workers under 40 have thought about changing their occupation or field of work since the pandemic began and about 1 in 5 workers overall have considered a professional shift.”

With a changing labor market and a reservoir of talent, young adults need to harness their skills and aspirations to be competitive, and employers need to tap into that potential. To empower this workforce talent, several local nonprofit workforce development and job training programs are working in partnership with businesses and government agencies to help workers achieve their goals.

Founded in 1964 by Reverend Leon H. Sullivan of Zion Baptist Church, Philadelphia’s Opportunities Industrialization Center, Inc. is one of the region’s oldest providers of free job training and career development. Under Sullivan’s slogan of “Helping People Help Themselves,” the organization has been moving people from poverty to stability for over 50 years. Its BankWork$® program trains adults on the hard and soft skills needed to start a career in banking. The program began with a focus on teller positions, but has since expanded to include customer service representative and personal banking positions. The PECO Smart Energy program, offers an 8 week course training participants for “smart energy” trade jobs. Participants graduate with an OSHA-10 Certification and are eligible to take the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners Associates exam. OIC’s Opportunities Inn prepares participants for careers in hospitality in partnership with the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority. The Reentry/SOAR program provides returning citizens with vocational training certifications in the culinary arts and manufacturing.

From our Partners

Those looking to transition their careers to the field of technology can look no further than Per Scholas. For over 28 years, the organization has provided tuition-free technical training to over 20,000 learners in 22 cities. Per Scholas’ mission is to promote economic equity by preparing under-represented individuals for careers in technology. Per Scholas Philadelphia provides cyber security and IT support training, and Future Powered by TEKsystems courses.

“Since opening in September 2019, Per Scholas Philadelphia has trained nearly 350 residents, striving to reshape the demographics of the tech industry,” explained Nicole Pumphrey, managing director of Per Scholas Philadelphia. “With 91% of Philadelphia’s learners being people of color and 45% women, Per Scholas is actively changing the under-representation in tech. Learners have access to comprehensive support, blending 80% technical instruction with 20% professional development and soft skills training, fostering connections with employers. By granting equitable access to education, Per Scholas envisions a diverse tech workforce that reflects the communities it serves. In Philadelphia, our graduates’ average starting wage is $23/hour or nearly $48,000/year.”

Per Scholas has built a network of referral and partner organizations including the Philadelphia Housing Authority, Project Home, Beyond Literacy and The Welcoming Center, and works closely with local employers like Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Vanguard, and TEKsystems. Like other nonprofit career training programs, Per Scholas gets support through private and public partnerships. ”We have experienced a stable and diverse base of support from foundations, corporations, government entities, individual donors,” said Pumphrey. “At every level of our work, we collaborate with leading local tech employers to ensure our technical instruction, career development strategy, and employer connection services are aligned with market needs and emerging trends. We have joined multiple groups such as: The City of Philadelphia’s Most Diverse Tech Hub, Philadelphia Youth Network and 1Philadelphia to continue to learn, adapt and provide the best resources to our learners.”

YouthBuild began as a nonprofit training youth in home renovation. It’s now a charter school with a mission is to empower young adults (17-20 year-olds) with job skills through a two-year program. Young adults without a high school diploma can gain job skills through academics, vocational training and community service, in addition to postsecondary transition services to ensure career success. YouthBuild Philly offers job training in business administration/customer service, child care, culinary arts, healthcare and building trades. The organization recently opened a student led and fully operated “Stomping Grounds Social Justice Cafe,” in West Philly’s Promise Zone.

The Veterans Multi-service Center Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program offers training for vets who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. It offers certification in ServSafe, which is needed for careers in food service/hospitality. It also offers Forklift certification and hazardous waste removal certifications, an industry on the rise in Pennsylvania.

The Philadelphia region is home to numerous organizations that provide tuition-free training and job placement for those that complete their programs, several others include:

Hopeworks https://hopeworks.org/our-services/train-with-us/
Congreso https://www.congreso.net/employment-training/cdl-a-trucking-license/
Energy Coordinating Agency https://www.ecasavesenergy.org/training-center
Yearup https://www.yearup.org/locations/pa-philadelphia
Tech Impact https://www.techimpact.org/our-programs/itworks/
Goodwill of Southern NJ & Philadelphia https://goodwillnj.org/job-training-programs/
LaunchCode https://www.launchcode.org/

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