The West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI), our pioneering workforce intermediary that has connected Philadelphians to career-ladder positions with major employers since its formation in 2011, has cut the ribbon on a new headquarters at 22 S. 40th Street in West Philadelphia. Members of our UCD and WPSI staff were joined by 3rd District Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, State Senator Vincent Hughes, Penn SEVP Craig Carnaroli, and WPSI alumni and friends during a celebratory event on Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023.
WPSI moved its operations to the new space after spending the last seven years at First District Plaza at 3801 Market Street. The Skills Initiative’s new home will occupy 5,600 square feet of office, classroom, and conference space for WPSI employees and participants, with upgraded technology meant to facilitate cutting-edge, hybrid trainings. The larger footprint will accommodate the Skills Initiative’s growing staff and provide dedicated areas for one-on-one coaching and small group meetings.
“Our new home offers us two floors of space to continue our critical work of connecting Philadelphians to high-quality jobs,” said Cait Garozzo, WPSI’s Executive Director. “The location couldn’t be better. It’s easily accessible by public transit, it’s a block from the UCD headquarters at 3940 Chestnut, and it’s in a beautifully restored, historic building in the heart of West Philadelphia.”
22 S. 40th Street was designed in the early 1870s by renowned architect Frank Furness. It originally served as the West Philadelphia Institute, a training center for young men preparing for jobs created by the industrial revolution. Omar Blaik CEO of U3 Advisors and Tom Lussenhop, President of U3 Ventures, both residents of West Philadelphia, purchased the roughly 20,000-square-foot building in 2018. Soon after they set upon an $8 million restoration. Now, over 150 years after the building’s construction, a portion of 22 S. 40th Street will once again serve as a hub of job training for participants in the Skills Initiative.
“For the building to return back to its original purpose is especially meaningful for us,” said Omar Blaik of U3 Advisors. “We couldn’t imagine a more fitting tenant for a building originally designed to promote job growth than the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, who have been a leader in workforce development in West Philadelphia since their inception. We are excited to have WSPI join our firm U3 Advisors in 22 S. 40th.”
3rd District Councilmember Jamie Gauthier and State Senator Vincent Hughes were on hand to help cut the ribbon. Both the Councilmember and the Senator are familiar with the work of the Skills Initiative. Councilmember Gauthier previously served on the UCD board of directors as a representative of the Garden Court Community Association, and Senator Hughes has been a longtime supporter of the program. “I’ve seen firsthand how the Skills Initiative helps West Philadelphia community members obtain family-sustaining employment,” Councilmember Gauthier said. “I look forward to watching their continued success from this exciting new home.”
“The West Philadelphia Skills Initiative is an invaluable asset to our community and its workforce development programming has made a positive impact on the lives of hundreds of people here in West Philadelphia,” said Senator Vincent Hughes. “I was honored to join the Skills Initiative in 2016 for its ribbon cutting at its previous headquarters, and it is a pleasure, once again, to join the organization as we celebrate its new home and its continued growth.”
The Skills Initiative continues to impact the lives of Philadelphia residents seeking quality employment. WPSI uses a people-first approach to bridge the gap between major employers and local residents by building customized pipeline training for new staff—connecting employers seeking talent with Philadelphians seeking opportunity. Recent employer partners have included Penn Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, SEPTA, Philly Shipyard, Inc., and a first-of-its-kind collaboration with the Wistar Institute, PIDC’s Navy Yard, and Iovance Biotherapeutics, and others to train residents for roles as biomedical technicians. Since WPSI’s formation in 2011, our career-driven program has served over 1,600 local residents, connecting talented individuals to high-quality opportunities with the city’s premier employers for total combined earnings of nearly $90 million. Despite the fact that the typical person who walks through WPSI’s doors has been unemployed for 33 weeks, 96% of our graduates are connected to employment at an average starting wage of $18.60 per hour.