WPSI and Grant Blvd Partnering on New Pilot Program with Support from the Commerce Department

Sewists working at Grant Blvd
Jul 24, 2023 4 months ago

Our West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI) and West Philadelphia-based sustainable fashion brand Grant Blvd are launching a pilot partnership called Fashion the Future to recruit, train, and employ formerly incarcerated women in positions within the fashion field. This new program is made possible through support from a $250,000 Fair Chance Hiring Workforce Solutions Grant administered by The City's Department of Commerce. Fashion the Future is one of three programs selected by the Department of Commerce to receive funds to develop innovative workforce training for justice-impacted individuals to prepare for and connect to sustainable career pathways that pay a living wage. 

The partnership between WPSI and Grant Blvd aims to both rethink the ways that fashion manufacturing and consumption might have a net positive effect on both the environment and the community while also offering a dynamic small local business a path to scale. The end goal of the pilot is to marry WPSI’s proven track record of connecting talented Philadelphians to meaningful jobs with Grant Blvd’s long-term plans of supporting the formerly incarcerated with meaningful employment, and at the program’s conclusion to place the first cohort in positions within the Grant Blvd team as sewists.

“Although we’ve enjoyed tremendous results in connecting Philadelphians to high-quality careers, improving our success rate with program participants who have been impacted by the justice system is a major point of emphasis for the Skills Initiative in 2023 and into the future,” says Cait Garozzo, Executive Director of the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative. “To partner on this training pilot with a West Philadelphia-based company like Grant Blvd that is doing similar work to offer opportunities for marginalized individuals is an incredibly exciting opportunity, and we’re extremely grateful to receive this grant to fuel this exciting new collaboration.”

“This partnership between Grant Blvd and the Skills Initiative will be a transformative opportunity unlike any in the country, which aspires to offer concrete pathways to living wage work for Black and Brown women who have been incarcerated,” says Dr. Kimberly McGlonn, founder and CEO of Grant Blvd. “This pilot program has the potential to create radically inclusive futures that can progress our collective good and improve the quality of life of Philadelphians. This is an exciting chance to reshore jobs, reduce the city's poverty, and reduce crime. This is an exciting moment in not just the future of fashion, but the future of manufacturing in Philadelphia.”

The 14-week, cohort-based training pilot aims to launch in September 2023. The first six weeks will combine WPSI’s jobseeker recruitment and world-class professional development with Grant Blvd’s in-house foundational industrial sewing curriculum. Jobseekers will spend the subsequent eight weeks in paid on-the-job training with Grant Blvd’s fashion and home goods lines.