Posted June 18, 2024

Workforce readiness takes center stage during Chamber conversation

The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia hosted a special panel discussion that was sponsored by Temple University and held at the Liacouras Center on Thursday, June 13.

Bob Sanders speaking at a Chamber event.
Photography By: 
Ryan S. Brandenberg
Robert Sanders, professor and chair of Temple’s Biology Department, speaks to attendees during "Bridging Workforce Readiness Through Inclusive Pathways: A Civic Issues Forum,” a panel discussion that was held on Temple’s campus on Thursday, June 13.

More than 75 business leaders from throughout Philadelphia gathered at Temple University on Thursday, June 13, as The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia hosted a special panel discussion designed to spur conversation around how the region’s leaders and employers can ensure that the next generation of workers has the needed skills to succeed in today’s labor market. 

Held at the Fox-Gittis Room in the Liacouras Center, “Bridging Workforce Readiness Through Inclusive Pathways: A Civic Issues Forum” was sponsored by Temple and co-sponsored by Citizens Bank and Philadelphia Works Inc. Panelists for the event included Robert Sanders, professor and chair of Temple’s Biology Department; William Bowie, president and CEO of Empower Construction; Joanne McCool, vice president of human resources at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; and Dan Fitzpatrick, president of Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. The discussion was moderated by Nikki Pumphrey, vice president of talent and workforce at The Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia. 

Throughout the 60-minute discussion, panelists discussed everything from data analytics to the ever-growing need for soft skills. A common theme that emerged throughout the conversation was the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). 

“In higher education, there is a big fear of AI, but we’re open to it here at Temple, and we’re exploring ways in which it can be further implemented,” Sanders said. 

According to Fitzgerald, that is going to be key moving forward. 

“Everything has been unlocked by the power of AI, and what that is going to do is create so many more new opportunities,” Fitzgerald said. “AI should not be looked at as a threat, it’s only going to make us better.” 

The topic of apprenticeships and the need for them to be expanded also became a familiar theme during the discussion. 

“Most employees are disgruntled because they don’t know what their career path is,” Bowie said. “An apprenticeship can give you that clarity when you implement them into other fields outside of the trades.” 

The importance of being able to seek guidance from peers was also discussed. Sanders took a moment to highlight Temple’s Innovation Nest, or iNest, which has been designed to help foster commercial development and spur student innovation. Opening in March, the iNest can host up to 12 individual companies in its physical space and serves other companies through a “flex” membership model where clients do not have their own dedicated space but can use shared facilities. It is the perfect way for aspiring innovators to tap into a broader ecosystem of companies, entrepreneurs, investors and advisors. 

As the discussion neared its conclusion point, Sanders took a moment to impress one last point to those in attendance. 

“There’s one word that I would like to say, and that’s: math,” Sanders said. “It’s important, and if you’re a parent, that is something you need to emphasize with your children. It is used in so many fields, and it will always be invaluable to young professionals.”