West Philadelphia Skills Initiative


The West Philadelphia Skills Initiative 1) supports the human capital needs of West Philadelphia’s anchor institutions and mid-sized employers; and 2) connects West Philadelphians to opportunities for employment, advancement, and skill-building. WPSI partners with the Netter Center, building on Netter’s track record in workforce and post-secondary preparation.



Target populationGraduating seniors from West Phila. high schools who typically 1) have underdeveloped soft skills needed in the workplace and 2) lack key hard skills required by today’s job market. This initiative will prepare these young adults for careers in the allied health professions.

Unique Model Features: From successful summer jobs programs to innovative programs for incumbent workers, UCD is building a job pipeline in West Philadelphia.


  • Successful employer-driven employment programs for youth
    • University City District has operated a summer jobs program since 2006 with a total of 150 participants in internships and service learning. The emphasis on graduating seniors emerged from programmatic and achievement gap analysis of this population.
    • In 2010, two of UCD interns received the Michael J. Walker Award, presented to 15 of the 11,000 participants in the PYN WorkReady program. In 2010, both programs were invited to present their work-related projects at the Convention Center.
    • The Netter Center operates the Student Success Centers for WPHS and UCHS (identified as the best in the city) and provides over 200 students with paid internship and service learning opportunities year round and over 200 additional students during the summer. 
  • Successful employer-driven employment programs for incumbent workers
    • For 4 years the Netter Center worked in partnership with UPHS and CHOP to provide incumbent worker training for 600+ participants with funds from the Industry Partnership program of the PA Dept. of Labor and Industry to support industry-recognized preparation, training, and/or certification in 17 health care career areas.
    • The Netter Center helped create a multiple year pipeline for high school students that provides internships and Community College dual enrollment in the high school years and guaranteed employment along with tuition to complete college. 

Historical Outcomes

  • Leveraged UCD’s place based partnerships to implement an employer-driven approach to workforce development, and addresses the national need for a model that engages anchor institutions in workforce development.
  • Leveraged tuition assistance benefits provided by employers to create a pathway for non-college-bound high school seniors to pursue college credits while they build their careers in positions of high need in area institutions;   

 Examples of systems change to date

  • Implementing a common strategy to link West Philadelphia employers with West Philadelphia residents.
  • Working within a shared service model to aggregate training and hiring needs for key regional employers.
  • Linking funding sources and programmatic models that are historically fragmented to created integrated pathways.   

Planned “scaling” with SIF funding

  • Expand programming to serve graduating seniors who currently are not well-served by existing programs or services and prepares them for specific positions in the allied health professions.
  • Expand learning module to include employer-based contextualized competency based training based on needs assessments done with employer HR team and benefiting from employer-provided tuition benefits.
  • Provide training for workplace mentors; provide on-going job coaching and support for the first 6 months of employment.

Projected systems change:

  • Effectively integrate  disparate funding sources and workforce development systems (e.g., Penn, PYN, WIB, West Philadelphia public schools, West Philadelphia employers) to build an employer-driven and place-based approach;
  • Use data from WPSI’s specific employment and career ladder opportunities “map” to modify existing and future education and training programs to identify specific skills needed for targeted career opportunities.