Public Testimony on Labor Jobs and Apprenticeships


On Labor Jobs and Apprenticeships

Testimony provided by:       Shirley Moy, Executive Dir., Lenfest North Philadelphia Workforce Initiative, Temple University –

Testimony provided on:      March 9, 2020 from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Testimony provided at:        Temple University, Liacouras Center, Philadelphia, PA

Thank you for the opportunity to share comments at the House Democratic Policy Committee Hearing.  Firstly, I would like to introduce myself as the Executive Director of the Lenfest North Philadelphia Workforce Initiative, which is under the Office of the Vice President of Public Affairs at Temple University.  While I assumed this position in 2018, I have over twenty years of experience working at the university.

Based on my experiences, I would like to highlight issues, programs and processes that the LNPWI is deploying to alleviate poverty in Pennsylvania, in communities like North Philadelphia.   I firmly believe how you define the problem, defines the solution.

Firstly, the Temple LNPWI places value on community-engagement.   North Philadelphia is diversely rich with assets, including community- and faith-based organizations, social service providers, healthcare institutions, employers, etc.   The residents, themselves, represent a wealth of resources.   When the LNPWI was designed, care was taken to understand the challenges and opportunities from these multiple perspectives. 

Secondly, there was emphasis on understanding workforce issues from a data-informed lens, which included understanding labor force participation, barriers to employment, trends in job opportunities, and existing resources.  The result of this period of discovery was the “Driving Working Development Solutions for North Philadelphia” publication, produced in collaboration with the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and Philadelphia Works, Inc.

Thirdly, there is common sense reality that coordination is key to avoiding redundancies of services.   The LNPWI has created the Opportunities for Workforce Leadership (OWL) Collective, which includes representation of over 35 organizations that meet bi-monthly to network, share resources and ideas, and to foster collaboration.   Temple University and Temple University Health System are central anchor institutions in North Philadelphia, and are invested in this work.

Finally, making strategic investments is critical.  With a $2.6 million grant from The Lenfest Foundation for fiscal year 2019-20, the LNPWI was able to redistribute $1.8 million for eleven distinct projects that intentionally involved community and university partnerships, and which aligned with the City’s workforce plans.  In less than a year, the LNPWI OWL Collective has been able to leverage an additional $1.3 million in local and state government funding, adding additional revenue for projects, targeting specific populations and programs. 

Funding has been targeted to specific populations, who face greater barriers to employment, including Opportunity Youth, individuals without a high school diploma, individuals with a disability, English Language Learners/Immigrants, and returning citizens.   With support from the LNPWI, the OWL Collective has instituted the following placed-based initiatives to prepare individuals for sustainable job opportunities:

  • Summer and year-round, paid and unpaid internship opportunities for high school youth and young adults with employers, including Temple University and Temple University Health Systems. 
  • Programs that help individuals obtain their high school equivalency, either the GED, HiSET Certification or 30 college credits
  • Initiatives that prepare individuals for work — focusing on critical foundational skills and 21st Century skills
  • Supportive services to reduce barriers to participation
  • Training of individuals for entry-level positions (that require only a high school equivalency), resulting in industry recognized certifications, and jobs with reasonable wages.
  • Training and employment opportunities in property maintenance, grounds-keeping, construction, renovation/installation, weatherization, electrical and other building trades are being offered to returning citizens, public housing residents, and Opportunity Youth.

The LNPWI recognizes that much more needs to be done at the basic community level and with more intensive employer engagement.    Many community residents are not fully aware of the resources, services and programs that are being offered.   More effective strategies to provide access to information from trustworthy sources seem to be a promising culturally-appropriate practice.

Generally speaking, employers are engaged in workforce development, but at different levels — from just hiring individuals, to participating in or being involved in designing training, to investing in individuals and developing apprenticeship opportunities.   Employers benefit from the efforts of the public workforce system, which is preparing individuals for jobs.  There an opportunity to press employers to intentionally make more of a commitment and a financial investment in the public workforce system.

With these thoughts in mind, the LNPWI will continue to focus on four identified priority areas:

  1. Fostering connections and collaboration in the vast ecosystem of workforce development organizations and employers
  2. Supporting and elevating human resources practices that directly benefit North Philadelphia residents
  3. Supporting data-informed workforce development programming and training that will provide practical skill-building and educational opportunities
  4. Expanding access to supportive services, so that people who are able to work do not continue to be limited by their circumstances

If we are to break the cycle of unemployment and underem­ployment in North Philadelphia, these are important places to start.

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