WPSI is About Solutions
The West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI) evolved from a small internship program into one of the nation’s most successful workforce development organizations over the course of ten years. Its success can be attributed to strategic guidance by its parent organization, University City District, long-term investment by foundations, a commitment to continual, data-driven improvement, and the support of an extensive network of community partners.
WPSI was founded in 2009, when the University City District (UCD) was presented with a unique opportunity to take over a workforce development program run by the West Philadelphia Partnership. The West Philadelphia Partnership, managed by the University of Pennsylvanian’s Netter Center, focused its workforce efforts on connecting youth to positions in academic medical centers. After two years of strategic planning and fundraising, UCD transformed the West Philadelphia Partnership into the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI), shifting the focus to professional development for adults.
The new organization was created in order to bridge the gap between major local institutions and long-time neighborhood residents by building customized pipeline training for new staff—connecting employers seeking talent with West Philadelphians seeking opportunity. By working closely with employer partners to understand their talent challenges and aspirations, and with West Philadelphia residents to understand barriers and career goals, WPSI was able to successfully train and place its first set of graduates with a wide array of employers, including the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel College of Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Penn Medicine, and Allied Universal.
As WPSI demonstrated its ability to successfully connect residents to jobs and create value for employers by reducing turnover, the list of employer partners grew to include city-wide employers such as SEPTA, Penn Medicine, and the Philadelphia Fire Department. This expansion allowed WPSI to bring exciting new opportunities to its West Philadelphia neighbors. With the support of the JPMorgan Chase foundation, WPSI built on this success and began connecting with more partners in other sections of the city, including Temple University in North Philadelphia and PIDC at the Navy Yard in South Philadelphia.
After nearly ten years of continual program improvement in response to ever-evolving employer needs, participant experience, alumni feedback, and staff research and expertise, WPSI’s services have expanded beyond a direct service professional development program. With thanks due to our generous funders, WPSI now offers additional services with the same relationship-centered, data-driven, solutions-oriented approach.