West Philadelphia Skills Initiative Receives Transformative $3.5 Million in Grant Support from The Pew Charitable Trusts

Two WPSI graduates embrace at a graduation in 2017
Jul 18, 2022 24 days ago

We are thrilled to announce that our West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI) has been selected by The Pew Charitable Trusts as the recipient of a $3.5 million growth grant through the Pew Fund for Health and Human Services (Pew Fund). This 5-year grant is among the largest in our workforce program’s history and will provide significant support for continued impact in the region.

“Pew was a very early investor in the Skills Initiative, believing in our model and our highest aspirations,” says University City District President Matt Bergheiser. “Now, this wonderful grant award comes at a critical and exciting time in our evolution, helping us to expand our efforts citywide and deepen our focus on quality jobs for talented Philadelphians. We are truly grateful, and could not be more excited for what the future holds.”

We created the Skills Initiative in 2011 to close the opportunity gap and address unemployment in West Philadelphia. WPSI acts as both a talent consultancy for major employers and a bridge to opportunity for disconnected jobseekers. A cohort-based training model, WPSI is unlike any workforce approach in Philadelphia. The program goes beyond traditional training to place graduates with employer partners, co-design training solutions and placement strategies, and create pathways to family-sustaining wages and career growth. 

Over the past few years, WPSI has ramped up city-wide recruitments for employee partners including SEPTA and the University of Pennsylvania, and expanded into other areas of Philadelphia, including a successful offshoot at PIDC’s Navy Yard. This new grant from Pew will support continued geographic expansion, allow doubling down on the successful partnerships at the Navy Yard with partners including Philly Shipyard, Inc. and Tastykake, and push forward WPSI efforts to focus on job quality and building new pathways for continued advancement for WPSI alumni.

Kristin Romens, project director of the Pew Fund for Health and Human Services in Philadelphia, said of the grant, “Pew is pleased to support University City District, which is contributing to the economic mobility of Philadelphians at this critical moment in our region’s emergence from the pandemic. Our growth grant recognizes that, as a large city with big opportunities and challenges, we need effective programs like the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative operating on a larger scale.”

The Pew Fund’s growth grants are awarded to help significantly expand Philadelphia-area organizations’ capacity to provide high-quality, research-informed services that produce equitable outcomes for individuals facing complex challenges rooted in poverty. Grantees are selected based on a track record of strong program outcomes, solid leadership and management, financial health, operational viability, a commitment to use of data for evaluation and learning, and an ambitious vision to have a positive impact on an important community need.

“This significant investment from a renowned funder like Pew is a major endorsement of our job training model,” says Cait Garozzo, Managing Director of the Skills Initiative. “These funds will fuel our growth over the next five years so we can continue to advance workers into career trajectory jobs while addressing staffing challenges for businesses.”

Pew has been a longtime supporter of our Skills Initiative, dating back to our program's first year of operation in 2011. Pew has awarded nearly $950,000 in support for the Skills Initiative since the program’s inception. We are extremely grateful to Pew for their continued support.