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Opinion: Prioritizing inclusive workforce development to meet our city’s evolving needs

Arun Prabhakaran, Urban Affairs Coalition

Apr 19, 2024

I love Philadelphia and have enjoyed witnessing its economic resurgence. It excites me to hear there is continued growth on the horizon, but we’ve reached a moment when I know the work to meet our full potential is truly only just beginning.

The refrain is not new, but this time it is different — this is a critical moment in Philadelphia’s history. The actions made today lay the foundation for the city’s future, a future where everyone has a role. It’s time to act upon our affirmed commitment to inclusive growth that equips people with the skills they need to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow. 


A good job represents much more than financial stability. It also provides a sense of purpose, responsibility, and pride. With the proper resources and collaboration, we can create a robust, opportunity-rich job market that prepares people for the jobs of today and tomorrow while helping to move our city forward.  


There are successful workforce development partnerships in Philly that, if appropriately scaled, can have citywide impact. 


As an example, my colleagues and I at the Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC) prioritize youth-focused programs like our Summer Youth Employment Program — a part of the Career Connected Learning PHL (C2L-PHL), the City’s reimagined youth workforce development initiative — and Youth Outreach Adolescent Community Awareness Program (YOACAP)


We also support same-day pay initiatives through our program partner One Day at a Time, Inc. (ODAAT), which helps bring people with a history of substance abuse or homelessness back into the workforce. 


Additionally, Mayor Cherelle Parker introduced a Plan for Creating Economic Opportunity outlining initiatives for soft-skills training and encouraging employers to locate to Philadelphia. And Councilmember Katherine Gilmore-Richardson passed legislation for the City to produce a workforce development annual report and for businesses to share information on workforce training and career pathways. 


Further, Philadelphia was recently granted award pursuant to the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Good Jobs Challenge made possible by Philadelphia Works, the city’s Department of Commerce, The Greater Philadelphia Chamber, Local Workforce Development Boards (LWDBs), and designated economic development entities from PIDC


Local job creation and workforce development also depend on local business growth. 

Philadelphia has a scarcity of private employers within its borders. In addition to its independent workforce development projects, UAC works closely with a broad array of partners, including the Inclusive Growth Coalition (IGC) and the coalition of Diverse Chambers of Commerce, on issues and advocacy related to inclusive business growth. We must build on all this work to provide more residents with access to good-paying jobs while strengthening our local economy. 


Philadelphia’s prosperity hinges on scaling a collaborative workforce development system powered by the strength of many partners. 


Through thoughtful collaboration, we can create a steady pipeline that will help ensure economic opportunity for all. 

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