Last week marked Workforce Development Week. To strengthen our city’s position for the long term and bridge the economic disparities that so many Philadelphia residents face, we need to work with our businesses to understand their employment needs while partnering with educators to assure that we are training to meet those needs.
The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Youth Network believe that this work begins with empowering our youth – the future workforce of our city.
For youth and young adults, work-based learning provides real-world experiences that are critical to increasing high school graduation rates, helping them make better decisions about career pathways and developing the skills, knowledge and workplace know-how that are essential components to career success. For employers, youth employment initiatives can address the professional development skills gap that is universally cited as a barrier to successful talent recruitment and retention, help develop a pipeline of future talent, increase workforce diversity and help organizations remain competitive by driving new and innovative ideas.
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There are a number of strategies in play in Philadelphia to connect young people to the workforce. Among them is WorkReady Philadelphia, a citywide effort managed by the Philadelphia Youth Network that uses cross-sector partnerships to connect our city’s young people to work experiences in the summer and year-round. Through WorkReady, participants are exposed to various careers, gain professional skills and learn financial literacy while creating long-lasting professional connections. Another is The Chamber’s Education & Talent Action Team, a unique, cross-functional group focused on creating clear pathways for the alignment between early-career individuals and employers to assure that we are training and engaging the region’s future leaders.
Another strategy for early employment is to create access to apprenticeships through pre-apprenticeships. Pre-apprenticeships combine academic and technical classroom instruction with work-based learning, providing a pathway to a long-term career. These pre-apprenticeships allow young people to earn industry-specific workplace competencies, skills, knowledge and credentials for preparation to enter and succeed in a registered apprenticeship program. Philadelphia partners are exploring traditional and nontraditional career pathways to ensure that more young people have access to opportunity.
In response to the West Philadelphia Promise Neighborhood, where employment rates lag and poverty is persistent, the youth and adult public workforce system has become unified with the addition of the Hub at PA CareerLink West. The Chamber and PYN, among other partners, work together to provide resources to connect youth and young adults with employment and education services while providing individualized supports needed to succeed.
These are just a sampling of the efforts underway to prepare our young people to join the workforce in Philadelphia. Workforce Development Week is a reminder that we must work together to provide more opportunities to young people.
As employers, we have the ability to help create a talented workforce by giving our young people an opportunity to rise to the occasion. When they do, it’s for the good of our businesses, our neighborhoods and the future of our city.