RELEASE: West Philadelphia Skills Initiative: A Model for Urban Workforce Development

Press Release: 10, December 2019
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West Philadelphia Skills Initiative Generates $37 Million in Wages from Previously Excluded Workers

Accelerator for America, The Centre for Public Impact and Drexel University Nowak Metro Finance Lab Release Report on the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — Today, Accelerator for America, the Centre for Public Impact (CPI) and Drexel University Nowak Metro Finance Lab released their research on the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI). The comprehensive report details the organizations’ findings from a 3 month look into West Philadelphia’s unique workforce development model, which has had an overwhelmingly positive impact in the area.

WPSI was founded by the University City District in 2012 to connect ambitious, under-resourced residents with specialized employers – such as hospitals, universities, transportation authorities, and laboratories – in West Philly. WPSI follows an established process that produces work-ready graduates for a variety of industries. Unlike traditional workforce development organizations, WPSI provides training only to the number of participants its employer partners are able to hire.

WPSI has proven to be extremely successful in the area, accomplishing:

  • Increased local labor participation for previously excluded workers: 530 WPSI graduates have been placed in local jobs
  • High success rates for program graduates: 97% of 2019 graduates secured full-time employment or positions with a promotion path to full time, exceeding the last reported public system placement rates by 29%
  • Lasting diversity and inclusion in workspaces: 97.6% of WPSI participants come from minority groups; employers report WPSI hires turn over up to 50% less than other workers
  • Regional Economic Growth: WPSI graduates experience a 25% increase in wages over other workers, this has generated $37 million in wages and increased disposable income and tax revenue

"The West Philadelphia Skills Initiative is a significant model for cities to adopt and adapt in creating income as a first step toward community wealth in some of our most disadvantaged neighborhoods” said Bruce Katz, Director of the Nowak Metro Finance Lab. “Its groundbreaking formula of employer-driven skill-building leverages its location in the heart of a global innovation district housing major hospitals and universities.”

Looking beyond West Philadelphia, the report highlights key learnings that can be adopted by workforce development institutions in other cities. Crucial considerations include identifying strong anchor employers adjacent to underemployed populations, removing barriers to participation, leveraging intermediary organizations, developing credibility through local partnerships, focusing on in-demand professional entry-level jobs, and maintaining sufficient funding.

“As cities redevelop, it is imperative they work to provide a high-quality of life and opportunity for all,” said Dan Vogel, Director of North America at The Centre for Public Impact. “Organizations like WPSI can provide communities with a framework for inclusive economic growth, fostering collaboration across different stakeholders to create a common vision for the city.”

CPI aims to be a driver in the national push for economic mobility, with work already in progress on implementation of the Public Impact Fundamentals for inclusive investment and the future of US jobs. The organization is also seeking to work with partners across the US to uncover more high-potential models to create a better future of work and support economic growth opportunities for all.

To read the full report, click here.

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About Accelerator for America

Accelerator for America is a non-profit organization created by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in November 2017. It seeks to provide strategic support to the best local initiatives to strengthen people’s economic security, specifically those initiatives that connect people with existing jobs, create new opportunities and foster infrastructure development.

About Centre for Public Impact

The Centre for Public Impact is a not-for-profit founded by Boston Consulting Group. Believing that governments can and want to do better for people, we work side-by-side with governments—and all those who help them—to reimagine government, and turn ideas into action, to bring about better outcomes for everyone. We champion public servants and other changemakers who are leading this charge and develop the tools and resources they need, like our Public Impact Fundamentals, so we can build the future of government together.

About Drexel University Nowak Metro Finance Lab

The Nowak Metro Finance Lab was formed by Drexel University in July 2018. It is focused on helping cities find new ways to “finance the inclusive city” by making sustained investments in innovation, infrastructure, affordable housing, quality places, and the schooling and skilling of children and young adults. It is situated within Drexel’s Lindy Institute of Urban Innovation.

Contact:

Elysa Neumann, Centre for Public Impact
+1 202-630-3383
elysa@centreforpublicimpact.org

Yusef Robb, Accelerator for America
323-384-1789
yusef@acceleratorforamerica.org