The Pew Fund for Health and Human Services has awarded its first advancement grant to the University City District (UCD), a partnership of West Philadelphia’s universities, hospitals, businesses, and residents, which seeks to improve the economic vitality and quality of life in the neighborhood.
These advancement awards recognize organizations with proven records of success, providing them with the means to increase their impact in the Philadelphia region. The $600,000 grant, provided over three years, will help UCD expand its successful West Philadelphia Skills Initiative. Established in 2011, the initiative builds on UCD’s relationships with major employers, such as the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, University of the Sciences, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Brandywine Realty, and Intech Construction, to train low-income individuals and assist them with job placement as medical assistants, laboratory technicians, security guards, construction workers, landscapers, and more.
In the past four years, the initiative has trained nearly 400 people. Sixty percent of participants have completed the training, and 90 percent of them have been placed in jobs that provide benefits and an average starting salary of $13.30 an hour. The one-year retention rate for participants in their jobs has averaged 70 percent. In many cases, trainees filled positions that employers previously had difficulty filling or that had high turnover. Over the next three years, the new Pew support will allow the program to expand from serving 140 individuals a year to at least 350. By the end of 2021, the initiative plans to be assisting 500 individuals annually.
The initiative reflects the research about how to help low-skill individuals succeed in the workplace. Effective programs must be “demand driven,” preparing prospective workers for the specific labor supply needs of employers and ensuring that the training that is offered reflects employer input and skill requirements. In that way, UCD is ideally suited for the Pew Fund’s first advancement grant. It is an organization with a proven history of accomplishment, strong leadership, solid financial management, and the capacity to substantially expand its role in improving the circumstances of vulnerable Philadelphia residents.
Frazierita Klasen is a vice president of The Pew Charitable Trusts, overseeing work in Philadelphia, including the Pew Fund for Health and Human Services.