PHILADELPHIA – The Way to Work Philadelphia! initiative successfully connected approximately 13,000 adults and youths this summer with jobs and valuable workforce skill developments, Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced today. The initiative, which launched on May 19 and ends today, used funding from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), to provide wage reimbursement that enabled local employers to hire adult employees and dramatically expanded paid internship opportunities for young people in the state wide initiative Way to Work.
Locally, this collaboration between the City of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board (PWIB) and the Philadelphia Workforce Development Corp. (PWDC), effectively matched regional employers with thousands of new employees, creating a win-win-win situation for youth, job seekers, businesses, and the local economy.
“Through Way to Work Philadelphia we provided around 13,000 people with not only the paycheck that comes with employment, but the dignity that comes with getting up each morning and going to work,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “The program produced multiple benefits for Philadelphia. While employees received employment and job training, small businesses across the city were also able to take advantage of Way to Work by hiring Philadelphians at a much reduced cost. These are exactly the types of efforts that we are developing and supporting every day to put Philadelphians back to work and develop a workforce fit for the 21st Century.”
“I cannot stress enough the positive effect this program has had on the lives of unemployed Pennsylvanians,” said Sandi Vito, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry. “Through PA Way to Work, nearly 25,000 youth and adults have been given the opportunity to work — an opportunity that would not have been possible without this program. More than 4,600 employers hired quality workers at a time when they may not have been able to, thus increasing their ability to remain competitive in these challenging economic times and, in many cases, enabling organizations to expand services to others in need.”
The Way to Work Philadelphia! initiative had two components — one for young people and one for adults.
Way to Work funding enabled a major expansion of opportunities offered this summer to youth through the WorkReady Philadelphia system of programs. The Philadelphia Council for College and Career Success (The Council) oversees WorkReady, which has served as the City’s coordinated youth workforce preparation system since 2003. On behalf of the Council, the Philadelphia Youth Network administered the youth program by identifying opportunities in six-week, 120-hour summer work programs through one of three models: service learning, work experience and internships. Youth who participated earned $7.25 per hour, or up to $870.
The three models — the core summer components of Philadelphia’s nationally recognized youth-serving system — also included pre-employment preparation, workplace mentors, project-based instruction with support and evaluation by certified teachers (and the possibility of elective academic credit), and focused instruction in 21st century skills.
The additional funding created new opportunities for 9,000 young people this summer.
PWDC operated the adult initiative through two points of entry — through Philadelphia’s EARN Centers (for individuals currently receiving public cash assistance) and through Philadelphia’s five PA CareerLink Centers for other eligible job seekers.
“The initiative required a tremendous amount of coordination in a very short period of time,” said Eric Nelson, interim CEO of the PWIB. “We’re proud to say we made it happen, and the impact was tremendous. In the short-term, participants were able to pay their bills and stimulate the economy with $22 million in new wages. In the long-term, the training and skill development people received on the job will improve their future job prospects and help employers as well.”
Local organizations have advocated for the extension of the initiative and are hopeful it will be continued later in the year. And both employee and employer participants in Way to Work Philadelphia! praised the initiative’s mission.
“Aside from the job, I gained valuable connections and workforce experience – skills that will translate into any job I have in the future,” said Regina Dyson, who worked at the African-America Chamber of Commerce and will remain there as a permanent employee. “This initiative helped me to get my foot in the door, and provided me with the opportunity I needed to demonstrate the value I can bring to the African American Chamber.”
The goal of the adult initiative was to help as many individuals as possible secure subsidized employment through Sept. 30. It provided for an hourly wage of up to $13 for up to 40 hours per week. Positions had to offer 20 to 40 hours of weekly employment and pay minimum wage or above. In total, 4,013 adults were matched to employment opportunities through the initiative, which allowed 1,624 employers to grow despite the recession. Approximately 90 percent of employees will have the opportunity to continue working after September 30th through existing EARN Center employment and training initiatives.
In preparation for the end of the initiative, satisfaction surveys have been distributed to employers to glean information that can be used to refine services. In addition, both employers and participants have received information on the broad range of services they can still access through the five PA CareerLinks and eight EARN Centers located throughout Philadelphia. These centers offer a “one-stop” network for individuals seeking employment and/or career advancement, including job search assistance, skill enhancement, occupational skills training, workshops on topics such as resume writing and interviewing, and a range of supportive services.
Employers can take advantage of the assistance offered by the business services team, which provides support with hiring and training employees, posting jobs online, candidate screening, identifying grants and hiring incentives, and other services.