A program to reskill Philadelphia’s workforce on the road to recovery from COVID-19
The Skills Forward Initiative that is part of the Chamber of Commerce’s Recharge and Recover PHL is out to retrain 5,000 individuals as a start.
Back when coronavirus was still a new thing in Philadelphia, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce brought industry leaders together from across the city to find ways to not only support members of the business community throughout the pandemic, but also set them up to thrive as Philadelphia reopened.
Recharge and Recover PHL, which the effort became known as, brainstormed six pillars leaders determined were key to the city’s successful economic recovery.
One of the most ambitious proposals as part of the recovery plan is a new effort to retrain Philadelphians that lost their jobs during the pandemic for industries more in need of workers.
For thousands across the city of Philadelphia and millions across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic left them out of work and never able to return to the industries from which they were laid off.
There became a distinct need to retrain individuals for new work opportunities in different industries.
This is where the Chamber of Commerce hopes its new Skills Forward initiative will shine.
“As a business community and as business leaders… a role that we can really play and make a difference in is in creation of jobs,” said PECO President and CEO Mike Innocenzo, who is co-leading the retraining effort alongside Accenture's Nicole Tranchitella and Dan Fitzpatrick from Citizen's Bank.
The pilot program, which is a partnership with Accenture, has an initial goal of retraining 5,000 individuals for family-sustaining careers in new industries over two years.
To start, Innocenzo worked alongside the Chamber of Commerce’s Susan Jacobson and other partners to identify four areas where displaced workers had potential to be retrained, and also the industries in need of more labor.
The four categories identified were in: entrepreneurship, health technology administration, information technology, and general skill development.
The program offers a combination of online and in-person training with some pertaining to basic skills, while others are part of the four identified tracks.
In its early stages, Innocenzo said the reskilling program is broad, but the hope is use the model created and refined during its two-year life and apply it to more areas of the economy, like energy, infrastructure, warehousing, and construction to name a few.
There is also hope that the initial goal of 5,000 can be grown.
“It needs to be more,” said Innocenzo. “This is an out-of-the-gate.”
Philadelphia has long been called “the poorest big city in America,” and the pandemic only made the road back even longer. In reality, Innocenzo said the city needs “tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of jobs” to fix things.
The dire situation of the pandemic also required almost immediate action from business leaders.
Before launching the Skills Forward Initiative, Accenture had already been developing reskilling programs alongside Graduate! Philadelphia and Philadelphia Works, meaning programs could be rolled out relatively quickly with extra support from the Chamber.
“We wanted to make an impact sooner rather than later,” said Innocenzo.
Another major key to effectively reopening Philadelphia’s economy is doing it equitably, and including Black and Brown communities that have long been left without a seat at the table.
For that, Innocenzo pointed to the ongoing outreach done through Chamber partners, community organizations and City Council members to get the word out about the program.
Through phone, the numbers are 833-750-JOBS (5627) for the PHL Career Portal and 302-468-7586 for Graduate! Philadelphia.
At the moment, there is support for languages other than English being provided through Graduate! Philadelphia and Philadelphia Works, but Innocenzo says the hope is that as the Skills Forward Initiative begins gaining traction, some of those systems can be supported by the Chamber.