West Philadelphia Skills Initiative


In 2010, the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative was launched to provide an innovative solution to a complex economic challenge: too many unfilled or high turnover jobs at some of Philadelphia’s largest employers, and too many unemployed West Philadelphians. On the one hand, University City is prospering, with dense economic activity unmatched in all but a few communities in the United States. The anchor institutions in West Philadelphia – the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia – employ 72,000 people, representing 10.5% of the total jobs in Philadelphia. These institutions invest $1 billion per year in research and development, and University City is also home to $4 billion in new or recently completed construction projects.

In contrast, 31% of the population of West Philadelphia lives below the poverty level, and 45% of households have incomes below $25,000/year. Only 21% of adults aged 25 or older have a bachelor’s degree. West Philadelphia’s unemployment rate is 15% (compared to an 11% unemployment rate citywide). Such disparity effectively means that thousands of people are disconnected from the economic vitality that hallmarks University City. WPSI operates from the viewpoint that many of West Philadelphia’s unemployed residents are talented individuals ready and willing to contribute value to their next employer – given the right opportunity. Finding these opportunities is WPSI’s strength. UCD’s long-standing track record of mutual trust and effective partnership with West Philadelphia’s most prominent institutions uniquely positions WPSI to extend these relationships to transform human capital.