University City Review
Investments from the Connelly and William Penn Foundations allow the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative program to serve more Philadelphians and provide real solutions to unemployment and poverty
On December 27, 2019, the University City District (UCD) announced two new grants to sustain its efforts to improve the quality of life for families in West Philadelphia and beyond. The organization is dedicated to community revitalization, in part by connecting unemployed and underemployed residents to careers and promoting job growth and innovation.
In 2011, UCD created the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI) to close the opportunity gap and address unemployment in West Philadelphia. WPSI acts as both a talent consultancy for University City’s largest employers and a bridge to opportunity for disconnected jobseekers. A cohort-based training model, WPSI is unlike any workforce approach in Philadelphia. The initiative goes beyond traditional training to place graduates with employer partners, co-design training solutions and placement strategies, and create pathways to family-sustaining wages and career growth.
Since its inception, WPSI has served more than 1,000 Philadelphians. WPSI program participants who had previously been unemployed for an average of 33 weeks have gone on to earn $37 million in collective wages, while increasing employers’ productivity and excellence.
Now, as WPSI expands to serve more Philadelphia residents, both the Connelly Foundation and the William Penn Foundation have announced significant investments in the program. The funding, totaling $895,000, will help to expand WPSI’s reach and support career growth and pathways out of intergenerational poverty, with a particular focus on University City District’s Green City Works (GCW). GCW, a landscaping social venture which employs West Philadelphians, provides high quality design-build-maintenance landscaping services while transforming the way the industry trains, advances, and supports its workforce.