We are thrilled and honored to announce that University City District, the University City Science Center and Drexel University have been awarded a $5 million grant from the Lenfest Foundation. The three-year grant will support a unique partnership that leverages University City’s explosive economic growth in order to train and place unemployed West Philadelphia residents in family-sustaining jobs today, while equipping the community’s workforce with the skills and certifications needed to connect to the jobs of the future.
Through a unique collaboration anchored by UCD’s nationally-acclaimed job training program, the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, the partners plan to connect nearly 600 previously unemployed residents to careers over three years, resulting in over $16 million in wages generated in the community. In addition, over 200 adults and high school students in West Philadelphia will attain credentials, certifications and career exposure, setting them on meaningful pathways to employment.
Not only does this grant allow each partner to scale its own programs in order to serve more individuals, but it will create a new collaborative infrastructure that strengthens economic opportunity in West Philadelphia. The West Philadelphia Skills Initiative connects local residents to living wage, life-changing jobs with University City’s premier employers; the program has served over 800 jobseekers and generated $15.4 million in wages for previously unemployed local residents. Lenfest’s support will enable UCD to build new training programs with both the Science Center and Drexel University, as well as other employer partners in University City. The Science Center will expand its FirstHand program to guide more local high-school students towards STEM-related careers, while working with the Skills Initiative to train and place local residents into the science and technology companies that are proliferating across University City. Drexel will expand its long-standing commitment to the Skills Initiative to train residents for specific jobs across the University while enhancing its adult education programming and credentialing at the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships.
To read more about what these funds mean to West Philadelphia, read this op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer. For a more comprehensive look at the details of the gift and how the organizations will collaborate on using the funds to better West Philadelphia’s workforce landscape, click here.