WPSI 2020 Year in Review

WPSI participants in the classroom

While 2020 was a turbulent year and required adjustments to how the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative operated, we were still able to have an impact. We forged new partnerships with Penn Medicine, Benefits Data Trust, and PIDC. We pivoted to virtual and hybrid trainings due to COVID-19. We expanded our alumni services. We made significant progress toward a sleek new WPSI website, and, thanks in large part to support from JPMorgan Chase Foundation, we began to replicate the WPSI model with partners beyond West Philadelphia. 

After starting the year with a partnership with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to train Patient Sitters and beginning a recruitment with SEPTA, we were forced to pause trainings in March due to the lockdown. We used the break from in-person trainings to expand our offerings and resources to WPSI alumni, to provide analysis of the labor market through a series of blog posts, and we worked toward implementing virtual and hybrid trainings.

In August, we launched our first virtual program in partnership with Drexel University, training 18 unemployed Philadelphians for careers as Emergency Medical Technicians, a critical talent need for our region. The program participants completed WPSI’s foundational skills training and trained in Drexel’s EMT certification program. Currently, WPSI participants are completing their EMT certifications through Drexel as they work towards high-quality jobs with CHOP, Keystone Quality Transport, and AMR.

In November, WPSI launched a partnership with Penn Medicine to recruit and train Lab Assistants. These positions support Penn Medicine’s effort to expand COVID-19 testing capacity for the entire Philadelphia region. In addition to completing WPSI’s training, participants received 80 hours of paid hands-on lab skills training from Penn Medicine. Notably, applicants for this program did not need to have any specific education beyond a High School Diploma or Equivalency, or specific lab experience. Lab Assistant roles traditionally require bachelor’s degrees, and by removing that as a requirement and relying on WPSI’s customized training, Penn Medicine has opened these high-quality jobs to a broader group of Philadelphians. At the conclusion of the program, 50 WPSI graduates accepted Lab Assistant positions. This type of outside-the-box talent thinking will be needed on a much larger scale as the needs of businesses change and adapt rapidly in the coming year.
Our work this year would not have been possible without the dedication of our staff and support of our funders. We would like to thank the following funders for their support in 2020:
  • Bank of America: $40,000 toward strengthening Philadelphia’s workforce
  • Citizens Bank: $50,000 toward bridging the opportunity gap in West Philadelphia and beyond
  • Connelly Foundation: $25,000 as part of its COVID Response and Recovery program
  • Lincoln Financial: $30,000 to support West Philadelphia talent pipelines
  • United Way: $45,000 to support the operations of the Skills Initiative
We are already hard at work planning for 2021 and look forward to partnerships with Drexel University, SEPTA, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Penn Medicine, Philly Shipyard, Rhoads Industries, Keystone Quality Transports, American Medical Response, and Good Shepherd Penn Partners.