Workforce Success Story Submitted By:
Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board
Workforce Solutions Collaborative
When research was conducted by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, the study found that more than half of Philadelphian workers lack basic literacy skills. In addition, employer focus groups and a survey sent to literacy agencies found a gap between the skills necessary for entry-level positions and the resources available to develop those skills. The Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board, or PWIB, recognized this as a serious roadblock in the development of a more competitive workforce for Philadelphia, and needed to take action.
The adult literacy community responded to the challenge by forming the Workforce Solutions Collaborative in March 2007. The unique partnership brought together workforce and literacy services and included partners from the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy, the community college, United Way, and several other literacy providers. The major goal of the partnership was to make the connection between literacy and workforce development services. By utilizing the PA CareerLink® as a forum to achieve this goal, and by using Adult Basic Literacy Education funding from District 1199C, a dual literacy and workforce preparation program called IMPACT was established at two PA CareerLinks® in the Philadelphia area. Classes included literacy skill building and a workforce project that consisted of creating a portfolio and doing assignments related to the workforce. In addition, the PA CareerLinks® helped to set up an Employer Expectation Day, where employers went to the Center to talk to members in the class about their expectations for jobseekers entering the workforce.
Outcomes & Benefits
As a result of the IMPACT program, students advanced 2.5 grade levels with increased literacy skills and the program had a much higher job placement rate than regular literacy programs that did not include a workforce preparation component. The success of the Workforce Solutions Collaborative has spawned other programs in Philadelphia. The mayor’s College and Career Advancement Program enables city employees to prepare for post-secondary education or additional training and includes five hours of career classes per week. Philly Works, which utilizes federal stimulus funding, allows city employees to come to literacy classes at PA CareerLinks as part of their work day to help move them into unsubsidized employment. While the Workforce Solutions Collaborative is unique nationally, the new program model has been used in other areas including Providence, RI. The partnership is also using a technical assistance grant from Jobs for the Future to help other literacy agencies in the United States make the workforce connection. The Workforce Solutions Collaborative is the programmatic side of the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board’s effort to advance adult workforce literacy, and is part of a three-pronged strategy for preparing Philadelphians for work. The other programs include Project UTurn for reconnecting youth who have dropped out of high school, and Graduate Philadelphia! focused on helping adults return to college and successfully obtain a degree.