Temple’s Lenfest North Philadelphia Workforce Initiative awarded $2.5 million grant
The grant from the Lenfest Foundation will support collaborative efforts to enhance opportunities for both youth and adult employment in North Philadelphia.
Temple University’s Lenfest North Philadelphia Workforce Initiative (LNPWI) has announced it will fund nine community partners and four university partners as part of its comprehensive career and workforce development efforts in the North Philadelphia community. The support is made possible by a recent one-year, $2.5 million grant from the Lenfest Foundation.
“Our goal is to help North Philadelphia residents access education, training and employment services so that they can secure jobs and careers that have good wages,” said LNPWI Executive Director Shirley Moy. “We collaborate with community and university partners to tap into the strengths of various local organizations to coordinate and communicate with each other in order to serve North Philadelphia.”
Through research of those who are unemployed, underemployed and underpaid, the LNPWI identified six groups that face additional challenges to employment and could benefit from additional resources. The identified groups include adults in need of a high school diploma, people with disabilities, English as a Second Language speakers and immigrant populations, residents in public housing, returning citizens, and the Steppingstones Scholars, who are underserved students in the city of Philadelphia involved in programs that create pathways toward college or the workforce.
Several organizations were selected as LNPWI community partners based on their missions and ability to provide meaningful resources to members of the six identified groups. Included among those chosen are Big Picture Philadelphia, Called to Serve CDC, the Center for Employment Opportunities, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Esperanza, the Maternity Care Coalition, the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA), Project HOME and the Steppingstone Scholars.
To provide nearby residents with convenient access to its services, LNPWI was able to secure space for the new LNPWI Workforce Center in the Norris Community Center, as part of the initiative’s partnership with the PHA. The center, located at 1915 N. 11th St., provides job training and career readiness programs in support of sustainable employment.
Moy believes that having a variety of specialized resources available from community and university partners can be beneficial for both employers and employees. For example, the PHA offers a number of construction and healthcare training programs leading to an industry-recognized certificate.
“The grant provides us the flexibility to develop programming grounded in employer demand and to work alongside Temple to develop customized strategies that meet the urgent needs of North Philadelphia,” said PHA Executive Vice President of Communications Nichole L. Tillman.
In addition to collaborating with the PHA to connect residents with training opportunities in construction trades, Moy said the LNPWI is also collaborating with District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund and PHA to provide community health worker training.
“Working together to streamline resources and support the community means that PHA can have a more significant impact and strengthen our approach,” said Tillman.
With similar goals to the PHA, Called to Serve is a community development entity and nonprofit organization working to revitalize the Tioga section of North Philadelphia.
“The grant gives us more resources to benefit the community; helping the community is in our DNA and at the heart of why we are Called to Serve,” said Jeffrey Harley, executive director of Called to Serve. “By sharing resources among community and university partners, we uplift our North Philadelphia community.”
Harley said his organization shares job and training leads and employer relationships with the LNPWI to connect residents to their training programs, so that they can create a pathway to secure careers with opportunities for growth and benefits.
Called to Serve hopes to create a Center for Arts and Digital Literacy in the North Philadelphia area of Broad Street, Erie Avenue and Germantown Avenue, where nearby residents can develop computer literacy skills, workforce development and additional training.
In addition to these community collaborators, the Lenfest Foundation grant will support four university partners focused on similar goals, including Temple's Information Technology Services (ITS), the Institute on Disabilities and the Intergenerational Center at the College of Education and Human Development, and the Pan-African Studies Community Education Program (PASCEP).
A pillar in the North Philadelphia community for the past 42 years, PASCEP is a low-cost, noncredit continuing education program offered by Temple’s Office of Community Relations.
“The benefits of collaborating are building resources together, for we’re all part of a community that is both internal and external to Temple,” said PASCEP Director Ulicia Lawrence-Oladeinde. “Temple students have a desire to work with the external community, so PASCEP is in a position to help Temple students prepare to be productive in the community by offering services to children in schools, but also adults in the community who need those services, too.”
“We want community members to know that there are more jobs available in different careers than before that they can access,” Lawrence-Oladeinde added.
PASCEP identified seniors as one of the groups that have faced challenges with obtaining employment. Senior attendance at PASCEP classes has risen during the pandemic due to a desire to become digitally literate.
Lawrence-Oladeinde said her organization wants to build on providing an accessible information center that provides 21st century skills for community members—including young adults, middle aged adults and seniors—so that they can learn how to use computers to access the internet for educational and workforce development purposes.
Started in 2003, ITS's Computer Recycling Center is a nationally recognized and award-winning program that collects and refurbishes computers and electronic equipment from across the university and distributes much-needed desktops, monitors, laptops, digital displays and servers to the community in North Philadelphia.
“We’re trying to figure out how to get free wireless internet into the community through a partnership with Philly Community Wireless, and use some of the grant funds for computer training and to get residents computers, cameras, headsets and everything they need to be remote,” said Jonathan Latko, director at the Computer Recycling Center.
“Last March I pitched the idea to Shirley that we wanted to work with her to get people and families that need it most online,” said Latko.
He said the Computer Recycling Center wants to first connect North Philadelphia residents to PASCEP for computer training classes before delivering computers to their homes. His goal is to provide at least 200 computers to individual homes and to have 200 families connected by internet to their programming within a year.
“A core of our mission at Temple is to provide access to excellence and that’s what we are doing,” said Latko. “We’re providing access to job training and development.”