Sarah Steltz is UCD’s new Vice President of Workforce Solutions. Prior to joining UCD, Sarah spent ten years working at Drexel University, most recently as Director of Workforce and Economic Inclusion on Drexel’s University and Community Partnerships (UCP) team.
Since starting at University City District in early May, I have devoted my time to learning the ins and outs of the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, and reflecting deeply on what the program is all about. With the help of my colleagues, I now have the incredible opportunity to begin imagining what the Skills Initiative will be as we move into the future.
While I am new to UCD, I am not new to the Skills Initiative. I worked at Drexel University for ten years, serving most recently as Director of Workforce and Economic Inclusion on Drexel’s University and Community Partnerships (UCP) team. In that role, I had the privilege of watching the creation of the Skills Initiative first hand. As an employer partner working with UCD to prepare medical assistants for roles at Drexel University College of Medicine, I could clearly see the tangible impact that the Skills Initiative has on employers and participants alike.
Having now examined the workings of WPSI up close, it’s clear to me that there is a “magic” of the Skills Initiative. We hear it in equal measure from graduates whose lives have been transformed through family-sustaining careers and employers whose workplaces have been impacted by dynamic, talented employees. Yet the formidable results of the Skills Initiative are in no way due to any mysterious alchemy. The program has an incredibly dedicated staff, committed employer partners, and a sea of talented West Philadelphians ready to connect to opportunity. Together, these partners combine to create a simple formula for success: pair simple hard work (and hustle) with an unrelenting desire to innovate and improve, and you’ll create change. And WPSI is most definitely in the change business.
In this moment, we have the chance to build upon the Skills Initiative’s incredible foundation and design our own future. Given our ambitious and urgent growth plans, the program is as small as it will ever be. Now is the time to evaluate and perfect every aspect of the Skills Initiative experience, to understand every component of the program and see how we can improve it.
As opportunities grow in West Philadelphia, we will grow to meet them. We’ll quickly build our capacity to serve more employers and participants; train in different and emerging sectors; and build credentialed programs, new social ventures, and trainings that serve multiple employers. From where I sit now, the Skills Initiative’s future is as bright as the future of West Philadelphia itself, and I couldn’t be more honored to be a part of that future.