The Skills Initiative harnesses the hiring power of the institutions at the core of University City’s economic engine – from Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia – and gives local residents the tools they need to open the door to opportunity. We use a unique, employer-driven strategy that adds value to both jobseekers and employers. 

WPSI adapts recruitment and curricula to employers’ specific hiring needs - regardless of sector or position - only launching training cohorts once employers have committed to partnering with the program. As an employer-driven program, the Skills Initiative exemplifies the benefits of a “train and place” model rather than the “train and pray” approach common to many workforce programs. With a best-in-class approach to both soft and hard skills, the staff ensures that employers receive talented local employees who fit their work culture and are prepared to thrive on the job. 

Perhaps most importantly, many participants find that the Skills Initiative becomes a pivotal life experience, connecting them to the tools, behaviors and supports they need to build careers that can change their lives, families and communities. 


The Skills Initiative Approach



Step 1: Employer Engagement

Employers partner with the Skills Initiative when they’re looking to resolve challenges related to recruitment, high turnover or performance quality. The Skills Initiative designs its recruitment, selection, and training activities based on the employer’s needs, working with the employer to understand:
• Performance Gaps
• Workplace Culture
• Current Hiring Practices
• Retention Challenges

Employer Commitment: Employers identify vacant positions that can be filled by program graduates and agree to interview graduates and give them preferential hiring status.


Step 2: Recruitment

Eligibility: WPSI recruits individuals who are currently unemployed, live in West Philadelphia (zipcodes 19104, 19131, 19139, 19143, or 19151), received a high school diploma/GED, and possess the specific credentials and characteristics that an employer requires.  

Outreach: During recruitment, the Skills Initiative uses an online platform and social media, shares information with non-profits and community-based organizations and conducts information sessions for the public. 
Selection: The Skills Initiative uses an in-depth application, interview and assessment process to build each cohort. 



Step 3: Customized Curriculum

The Skills Initiative offers a flexible program model, ranging from 4 to 26 weeks. While the model changes based on employer needs, it always includes WPSI’s best-in-class approach to soft skills development:

On-the-Job Training: Longer programs include on-the-job training, which allows participants to learn onsite with the employer while earning a wage.

Technical Skills: Many cohorts receive technical skills training, designed to help participants adapt their previous technical skills training to the needs of a specific employer or to teach an employer’s proprietary technical systems.

Soft Skills: Soft skills are the foundation of every cohort’s experience. The curriculum is assigned to help participants better understand themselves and their career goals, and how to navigate today’s job market and succeed in the workplace.



Step 4: Feedback and Evaluation

The Skills Initiative builds weekly performance evaluations and milestones into the program. A performance-based weekly stipend is used to model expectations of the workplace and encourage the behaviors and tools that are needed in a professional environment.



Step 5: Interviews with Employer Partner

Participants have structured opportunities to meet with the employer throughout the program, and graduates are guaranteed interviews at the end of the program. 



Step 6: Post Placement Supports

Program graduates receive coaching services and have the opportunity to join the WPSI Alumni Network for ongoing supports.