Examines Philadelphia's workforce development system performance, operations and challenges over the past four fiscal years and offers a number of suggestions to address challenges.

"Over the last four years, half a billion dollars in public funds were spent in Philadelphia in the name of workforce development—helping residents get jobs or skills and employers find workers to sustain or expand their businesses.  These services, which include training for workers and recruiting for employers, were funded largely by federal and state dollars at an annual cost that ranged from $118 million to $134 million. All of these services were free of charge to workers; most were free to employers. Had these efforts been part of city government last year, and they were not, they would have constituted its fifth biggest department, surpassed only by police, fire, prisons, and human services. Roughly 1 in 10 working-age Philadelphians have sought help at a workforce development center on an annual basis.

Behind this system have been two nonprofit organizations, the Philadelphia Workforce Development Corporation, which allocates most of the money, and the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board Inc., which sets general strategy. Both are led by city appointees and are accountable to state funding agencies. For years, the performance of the two organizations received little attention from local elected officials, and their complicated division of roles sometimes led to confusion and impasses. In recent years, unpublicized state audits have found isolated problems with their financial controls.

This report examines the workforce development system’s performance, operations and challenges over the past several years—hard economic times in which increasing numbers of Philadelphians were looking for work. It is based on extensive interviews, a review of internal audits and reports, and a statistical comparison of the system’s performance with that of similar, federally mandated programs in other regions" (p.1). (Abstractor: Author)

Full Publication Title: Philadelphia’s Workforce Development Challenge Serving Employers, Helping Job Seekers and Fixing the System


Major Findings & Recommendations

"For Philadelphia residents and leaders looking for ways to increase employment in a tough economy, the publicly funded workforce development system is a significant tool at their disposal. But it faces many challenges. The system has suffered from a cumbersome leadership structure, low utilization by local employers, and average or below-average performance in helping job seekers get jobs and keep them. For most of the past decade, elected leaders, both in Philadelphia and in Harrisburg, did little to address the problems. That has changed. City and state officials have launched a restructuring effort and announced their intentions to address many of the difficulties. Among the study’s key findings are: • Just 12 percent of the city’s employers—half the average elsewhere in Pennsylvania—are registered to use this multimillion-dollar system, and many appeared to be unaware of its services. • Some job seekers said the system has lacked communication and follow-through with job seekers to help them make choices or find services. Some officials have agreed. At the same time, more job seekers have come to the workforce development system seeking help in recent years. • Through Philadelphia’s EARN Centers, the largest and most costly workforce development program in the state, 4,160 welfare recipients found jobs in Fiscal 2011. They represented a small fraction of this struggling population in the city. • Through the CareerLink network, Philadelphia job seekers not on welfare also found work at a rate below the average of other areas around the state. Among those who received workforce services in the city, 59 percent—about 2,500 people—got jobs in the 12 months ending September 30, 2010, compared with 72 percent in other parts of Pennsylvania. • For the four fiscal years ending June 30, 2011, the combined annual budgets of the Workforce Investment Board, the Workforce Development Corporation, and a third organization responsible for youth programs, the Philadelphia Youth Network, totaled $493 million. • After many years of inaction by elected leaders, officials are now restructuring the system—partly at the initiative of Mayor Michael Nutter—and say they intend to work to improve performance. Among the changes underway are a merger of the two nonprofit organizations, the contracting out of CareerLink services, and a new strategy to serve employers. (p. 2-3) (Abstractor: Author)