Phila. workforce agency to partner with four major employers

Philadelphia’s workforce system didn’t have a great reputation in the past.

Over the past year plus, the city’s employment partner has made efforts to reinvent itself in response to criticism that it hasn’t done a good enough job connecting job-seekers with companies that are hiring, but it appears to be changing.

Board member Tracee Hunt, outgoing director of human resources for New Jersey-based Bancroft, and a board member of the organization, says she has seen real improvement. Her company didn’t do much hiring from the system, according to Hunt, because it didn’t get a lot of qualified applicants.

“I think their refined processes and all the improvements that have been made over the last 12 to 18 months has restored a lot of my faith as an HR leader in the quality, in the caliber of candidates that will come out of the workforce system.”

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Four major Philadelphia employers with executives on the board, Bancroft, PECO, Mercy Health and the Temple University Health System, have pledged to work with the nonprofit to fill some key positions. The workforce organization can direct people to learn the skills needed and — ideally — it’s a “win-win.”  

Mark Edwards, President of Philadelphia Works, says the program focuses more on his organization’s basic question:

“How our organization, Philadelphia works is going to work more seamlessly with job seekers to meet today’s employment needs.”

He says staff have sat down one-on-one with the participating companies, saying “Let’s talk about one to two high volume jobs that you know you consistently recruit for and we are going to understand everything that we can about those high-volume jobs so that we can prepare job seekers that come into our centers so that we serve as a pipeline for these jobs for these employers.”

Last year, Tom Ginsberg of Pew Charitable Trusts’s Philadelphia Research Initiative wrote a very critical report on the city’s workforce system. He says the jobs agreements are very positive, however:

“It’s key that they engage new employers into their system and bring in more employers who have not been previously engaged in the jobs system run by the state.”

Edwards says he plans to focus on getting board members committed this summer and open up the invitation to more companies in the fall.

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