Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The City of Philadelphia’s new Workforce Strategy includes key insights from Peirce College!

Since fall 2016, key cross-sector stakeholders from Philadelphia have been collaborating to build a most inclusive and unified workforce development strategy for the City. Today, Mayor Kenney officially introduced it to the city and region during this year’s Chamber of Commerce Mayoral Luncheon.

Fueling Philadelphia’s Talent Engine is a comprehensive, inclusive initiative designed to build a world-class workforce through the alignment of education and training with the current and future needs of business and industry. More importantly, the strategy will equip Philadelphians with relevant workforce needs and support systems that will put them on a path to secure long-term, family sustaining employment.

In addition to being thrilled about the City’s prioritization of workforce development—specifically for underserved Philadelphians including adult learners, opportunity youth, returning citizens, and immigrants—I am also excited about Peirce’s seat at this vital table. This past fall, I was honored to be invited to support this strategy by joining the Workforce Strategy Steering Committee. Since then, I have been able to share my insights about higher education’s ability to provide solutions to many of our city’s complex workforce problems. For Peirce, this kind of role is not new. It is a hallmark of what we have been doing for over 152 years—equipping individuals with relevant workforce credentials, training, and support systems.

Here’s even better news. We are not just aligned with what the City is doing but also who it is doing it for. The Workforce Strategy focuses on the diverse men and women who fuel Philadelphia’s workforce and who are often under-credentialed and underemployed. As an institution that values this population and strives to meet its needs, Peirce is well positioned to be a partner in this work.

What’s in it for us? It goes without saying but is worth mentioning. When Philadelphians are positioned for success, we all win! Specifically, this strategy provides more opportunities for us to amplify our impact and continue implementing the workforce development plan we envisioned and built for the institution more than three years ago when we designed our Employer Relations Strategy. Since then, we have strived to more directly and intentionally bridge the gap between employer needs and those served by higher education. Since then, our Associate Vice President of Workforce Solutions and Community Impact, Malik Brown, has been at the helm of helping Peirce narrow this gap one relationship, one partnership, one initiative at a time. For instance, Malik led the development of our customized training program in non-clinical healthcare—informed by some of our City’s leading employers and supported by a United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey Impact grant. Set to launch this spring, this pilot program will provide individuals with front-line customer service skills that are in high demand.

Another example of Peirce’s alignment with the City’s workforce strategy is our focus on serving opportunity youth. The City has identified this talented but underserved population as a critical group to better educate, train, employ and support. This approach mirrors Peirce’s partnership with Year Up. Since 2013, we have worked collaboratively with Year Up to address the needs of opportunity youth ages 18-24. Together, we have supported almost 400 students in plugging back into post-secondary education, workforce, and support systems.

The City’s workforce strategy is relevant, timely, and necessary. For too long, many practitioners in higher education, workforce development, government, social services, and business have been working individually to tackle the widening gap between business needs and talent readiness. By locking arms together and walking in lockstep toward solutions, we have built a comprehensive, strategic direction that will better harness resources, advocate for policies, optimize systems and arrive at the kind of impact our city and its citizens deserve.

Fueling Philadelphia’s Talent Engine is the workforce engine that will amplify Peirce’s impact and that of many other practitioners focused on workforce development. At a time when our nation is pulled apart by our differences, this strategy pushes us closer together and gives us a necessary, common purpose. More than a City’s workforce strategy, it is a call to action for us to focus on what really matters—building inclusive, collaborative solutions and serving those who could benefit most from Philadelphia’s spirit of teamwork and partnership. Check out the information provided online at phila.gov/workforce.