The first of four integrated workforce development centers opened Thursday morning in Center City as part of the “No Wrong Door” initiative developed by Philadelphia Works, the city’s workforce development organization.
PA CareerLink and the Employment Advancement Retention Network (EARN) — both state workforce development efforts — will now be housed at the same Suburban Station facility. The programs will integrate at three other Philadelphia locations as well.
The goal is to create facilities where workforce services are streamlined, making it more efficient for both job seekers and employers to meet their respective needs in one place.
“It’s a matter of efficiency and enhanced quality of services to job seekers and employers, because it’s one-stop shopping,” Philadelphia Works President Mark Edwards told PhillyVoice.com.
EARN centers cater to people receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits, seeking to address the needs of low-income residents facing employment barriers.
Enrollees in that program also are able to utilize services offered by PA CareerLink centers, which provide no-cost workforce development services to anyone. But since the programs are housed in separate facilities, Edwards said, many are unaware of PA CareerLink services.
“They would have to know to go from one place to the other place,” Edwards said. “They’d have to know that. Now, because it’s integrated, we’re going to be giving them an orientation that includes all the services that we have to offer.”
The "No Wrong Door" initiative is designed to ensure job seekers and employers receive the requisite services regardless of whether they enter the system through an integrated center, affiliated community organization or online.
PA CareerLink offers job search assistance, job-seeker workshops, networking groups, career counseling and skills and interest assessments. EARN provides case management, remediation, skills training and job placement and retention activities.
The decision to integrate the two programs stems from an assessment
of Philadelphia’s workforce development system conducted by the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce. The analysis, released in April 2011, suggested integration as a way to eliminate administrative redundancy and improve service-delivery coordination.
Some services also are available online or at community-based organizations.
The four integrated centers include the Center City location at 1617 JFK Boulevard, which previously served as a PA CareerLink Center, and sites in West Philly (3901 Market St.), Northwest Philadelphia (5847 Germantown Ave.) and North Philadelphia (4261 N. Fifth St.).
The city unemployment rate has fallen considerably since hitting 11.2 percent in July 2012. It stood at 6.2 percent in December, the most recent figure available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate fell from 7.8 percent to 5.0 percent during that same period.
Economic conditions are improving in Philadelphia, Edwards said. He pointed to the hotel, hospitality and service industries being spurred in part by the upcoming visit by Pope Francis in September and the Democratic National Convention in 2016.
“The market is coming back,” Edwards said. “Employers are beginning to hire. The overall feeling that people have in Philadelphia is positive right now.”