A new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts finds Philadelphia’s system to train and connect workers with jobs is facing major challenges.
Its core programs face 50 percent budget cuts this year, following a combination of reduced funding from the state and federal stimulus dollars running out.
The study also found the system has below-average performance for laid-off workers.
Importantly, the city suffers from structural unemployment – meaning many job-seekers don’t have the skills or education employers look for. These individuals generally have a high school degree or less, and are often receiving public assistance.
At the same time, the number of job-seekers coming through the doors continues to rise.
Pew researchers say Philadelphia’s workforce development system is important — and not just because unemployment is high. If all the workforce programs were combined into one city department, the report concludes it would be the city’s fifth-biggest spender. That beats out the health department.
“This is a large system and it is somewhat overlooked locally but it’s very important to the local economy,” say Thomas Ginsberg of Pew’s Philadelphia Research Initiative.
“As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention,” says Mark Edwards, the head of Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board.
“We just have to find ways to provide services that people need with the resources available to us.”
Edwards says his organization is working to get more companies to hire graduates of its training programs. The Pew study found only a third of the Philadelphia Workforce Investment board members’ companies had hired from the program.