Over the last four years, half a billion dollars in public funds were spent in Philadelphia in the name of workforce development, helping residents get jobs or skills and employers find workers to sustain or expand their businesses. In 2011, roughly 1 in 10 working-age Philadelphians sought help from this public system, run by two nonprofit corporations—the Philadelphia Workforce Development Corporation and the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board Inc.—that are led by city appointees.
With many Philadelphians still looking for jobs, The Pew Charitable Trusts' Philadelphia Research Initiative examined the system's operations and performance in comparison to others in Pennsylvania and nationwide. The study covers a period before, during and after the recent recession leading up to a restructuring of the system, which is now underway.
The Pew report, Philadelphia's Workforce Development Challenge: Serving Employers, Helping Job Seekers and Fixing the System, found that the system has suffered from a cumbersome leadership structure, low utilization by local employers, and mostly average or below-average performance in helping job seekers get jobs and keep them.
“State and local officials may not be able to do much about the national and global economic forces shaping the job market in the city,” said Thomas Ginsberg, project manager of the Philadelphia Research Initiative and primary author of the report. “But our research indicates that the quality of workforce development services is within their power to improve.”
Among the key findings are:
Any workforce development program, no matter how well run, would struggle in Philadelphia and most of the core cities of the comparison areas due to a fundamental mismatch between the education and skills of workers and the demands of local employers. Philadelphia has far more low-educated job seekers than it has low-skill jobs suitable or available for them. The job situation is not as bad for better-educated workers.
The system is now undergoing a restructuring designed to make it more efficient and effective in meeting the needs of job seekers and employers alike. Workforce development officials say progress already is being made in addressing some of the concerns raised in this report and in other studies commissioned by the system itself.
An interactive display showing the data from the comparison areas is available at www.pewtrusts.org/philaresearch.
About the Report
Philadelphia's Workforce Development Challenge was written by Thomas Ginsberg, project manager of Pew's Philadelphia Research Initiative. It is based on extensive interviews, internal audits and a comparison of performance statistics in Philadelphia and other systems. All job-placement and job-retention statistics are based on uniform data collected by the U.S. Department of Labor, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.
About The Philadelphia Research Initiative
The Pew Charitable Trusts' Philadelphia Research Initiative provides timely, impartial research and analysis on key issues facing Philadelphia for the benefit of the city's citizens and leaders. Pew is a nonprofit organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.www.pewtrusts.org/philaresearch