By: Ra’Vonne Pierre
Temple University’s Lenfest North Philadelphia Workforce Initiative will soon launch its evidence-informed Driving to Success pilot program. This program aims to provide resources to North Philadelphia residents that will support them in obtaining a driving license, which will expand their employment opportunities. The pilot is in response to research on the demand from employers for employees with a driver’s license and the challenges faced by job seekers who do not have a driver’s license.
Based on a research from the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, the number one certification required by employers is a driver’s license. Of note, a review of the 2019-2020 High Priority Occupation list for Philadelphia showed that 26% of the listed occupations require a driver’s license. Occupations which require a driver’s license include light and commercial drivers, construction workers, police and correctional officers, emergency medical technicians, and direct support professionals. Other occupations prefer candidates with a driver’s license, like Community Health Workers.
To better understand the challenges facing job seekers without a driver’s license, the LNPWI collaborated with a number of community partners to conduct focus groups with older youth and adults. Collaborative partners included El Centro and Vaux High School under Big Picture Philadelphia, Steppingstones Scholars, Inc., and Called To Serve. Another focus group was held in Spanish in collaboration with Congreso de Latinos Unidos. A focus group with adults without a high school diploma was organized with Temple University’s Center for Community Partnerships. A focus group with deaf and hard of hearing population is being arranged for December.
Participants in the focus groups shared some common experiences and opinions as to the challenges in securing a driver’s license and impact of not having a driver’s license on employment options and quality of life. Of note, people shared that a driver’s license is often a requirement for work and that having a driver’s license would allow them to pursue new employment opportunities. Participants also valued the driver’s license as proof of identification for tasks such as opening bank accounts, applying for benefits, completing a car registration and obtaining car insurance. Having a driver’s license would avoid potentially legal hardships for individuals who are driving without a license. For others, having a driver’s license offers a sense of independence and the ability to help their family with daily activities, like taking children to school, taking family members to medical appointments, going to the grocery story, and more.
Focus group participants were able to share what resources would be helpful towards obtaining a driver’s license. For Spanish speaking adults, a driver’s education course in Spanish, along with an instructor, would be important. For many, financial assistance to attend a driving school would be helpful. For others with limited access to a healthcare provider, the ability to get an eye exam and eyeglasses and a physical exam would be of benefit.
Informed by the focus group conversations, the Temple University LNPWI will be inviting participants in the focus group to be part of the initial pilot. These individuals will be offered assistance with the knowledge test, can get help with securing proper identification, and will receive referrals to get an eye exam, eyeglasses and/or a free physical examination. On a case by case basis, LNPWI will be offering financial assistance to pay for the cost of the permit application and for driving lessons. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org