This story originally appeared in The Philadelphia Tribune.
Philadelphia’s business community is joining with community groups and universities to offer skilled training programs to fill much-needed positions that start off as entry level but typically lead to higher paying jobs and careers.
Since the pandemic, many city companies are trying to expand, but are struggling to find employees. At the same time, many city residents lack the necessary skills to fill the openings. These training programs provide a needed service to job seekers and the business community.
In August 2020, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. (PIDC) launched its Navy Yard Skills Initiative.
The program was made possible with a $1.5 million grant from JP Morgan Chase to the University City District to support the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, in collaboration with Temple University and PIDC, to build a network of employer-driven workforce programs in West, North and South Philadelphia.
Since 2018, Philadelphia Opportunities Industrialization Center’s Smart Energy Technical Training program has offered customized job training and job-placement services for those who are interested in the energy industries, such as solar and electric-car charging technology. These two sectors are growing rapidly in job and career opportunities, as clean energy and electric vehicles become more popular. The OIC is one of the region’s oldest and largest providers of tuition-free job-training and career-development services.
Both programs are seeking applicants now for programs starting in January.
Temple University, through its Lenfest Center for Community Workforce Partners formed in 2018, also offers job and career training programs.
Delena Smith, skilled-trades program manager of OIC’s Smart Energy Technical Training program, said it is designed to get graduates entry-level positions in the solar, electric-car charging and other energy-related businesses.
“It was started because of the need for skills training in trades jobs,” Smith said. “We know that solar is the future, so it just made sense.”
According to Smith, about 70 people have completed the eight-week program, which is sponsored in part by PECO and is tuition free. To enroll, you must be 18-years-old, have a high school diploma or GED, be able to lift 50 pounds, go up an extension ladder and pass a reading and math test.
After finishing the program, participants are given an OIC certificate of completion and an Occupational Safety and Health Administration certification. This means the holder has completed a 10-hour safety and health information course for entry workers in the construction and general industry.
Graduates of the program have been hired by companies such as PECO, Solar State and Volta Charging. Based in San Francisco, Volta Charging is one of the top builders of electric-vehicle charging stations in the U.S.
“We’ve been able to place 83%,” Smith said. “The pay starts at $15 an hour, but goes up with experience. (Participants) are very excited about it. Many of our participants have no trades experience.”
As part of the program, Smith also teaches a class on “life skills” such as conflict resolution, professionalism, time management and dealing with difficult people in the work place. Employers had specifically asked for these skills, Smith said.