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How Philadelphia is Battling Poverty By Building a Robust Workforce

The city of Philadelphia has made impressive economic gains over the last year. In 2017, for the second year in a row, the city added jobs at a faster rate than the nation as a whole. It also recorded its highest monthly average job numbers in nearly three decades.

At the same time, Philadelphia has the dubious distinction of being the poorest large city in the nation. Despite healthy job creation and lower unemployment, the city’s poverty rate stands at nearly 26 percent and nearly half of the city’s 400,000 poor residents are living in deep poverty.

These statistics have added a sense of urgency to Philadelphia’s poverty-alleviation efforts. In February, Mayor Jim 

Sheila Ireland, Executive Director of Philadelphia’s newly created Office of Workforce Development.

Kenney released a citywide strategy, Fueling Philadelphia’s Talent Engine, that shifts the focus of workforce development efforts from short-term job training and placement to long-term career planning and advancement. The strategy has three overarching goals: help Philadelphians acquire the skills that employers need to build a world-class workforce; alleviate barriers to meaningful employment; and build a workforce system that is more coordinated, innovative, and effective.

To carry out this vision, Kenney appointed veteran workforce development leader Sheila Ireland. Ireland is Executive Director of the city’s newly created Office of Workforce Development, which consolidates the city’s workforce activities into one central agency. In partnership with FUSE fellow Barry Wilkins, Ireland has brought together a group of local businesses, industry organizations, educational institutions and city agencies to identify solutions, starting with how the city can prepare workers for careers in the technology sector.

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PA Workforce Development Association