Workforce Wednesday: How public workforce programs are improving Philadelphia’s economy

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The COVID-19 pandemic unarguably had a profound effect on our regional economy. It created unique challenges for many industries like education and healthcare, but hit local hospitality, entertainment, and retail particularly hard. With many government and nonprofit programs in place to help both business owners and career-seekers navigate this dual economic and healthcare crisis, Philadelphia Works is seeking to offer better insight into Philadelphia’s workforce initiatives.

To understand how our public workforce system is improving the local economy and with the hopes of helping local residents and businesses better navigate and understand our public workforce system, Dawn Thomas-Hayward sat down with the head of our City’s workforce development board, H. Patrick Clancy to asked him some direct questions.

With more than 20 years of senior-level experience in the career and workforce development system, Patrick directs all aspects of the organization, providing strategic guidance for investments into solutions and services that grow Philadelphia’s economy. Joining him is Dawn Thomas-Hayward, the Communications Manager at Philadelphia Works, who uses her 18+ years’ experience in administration and outreach to build better access to resources for a more equitable economy.

Dawn: The economic impact from COVID-19 has presented a unique set of challenges to our local workforce. What would you say are the building blocks to Philadelphia’s recovery?

Patrick: Philadelphia Works knows that Philadelphians want to work. For people to gain — and maintain — employment, they need to possess the skills and talent that businesses are looking for. Philadelphia Works is an intermediary – so we come in and match what skills businesses need with accessible education and training programs to help career seekers be competitive.

I would also say that businesses need to be specific about what skills are required for their open positions. We’re encouraging business-owners to talk to us and be candid about what they’re looking for in job descriptions. In those discussions, we’re also encouraging businesses to embrace workers from nontraditional pathways. As the pandemic shifted the way we do business, we’re finding that skills gained from a variety of sources — from online courses to apprenticeship positions — transfer well to today’s business needs.

Dawn: Philadelphia’s public workforce system is complicated and can be hard to navigate. How does Philadelphia Works support equitable access to resources and opportunities for career seekers?

Patrick: For anyone looking for employment and training opportunities to advance their career, the best way to access resources is to connect to our local workforce system through PA CareerLink Philadelphia ( While our centers are operating remotely until later this year, our virtual resource center provides individuals with access to many of the same workforce services that they would get in any of our four physical locations. Right now, we are following city and state guidelines around reopening. Safety and wellness for all has been our priority over the past year. As we seek to reopen our doors later this year, it’s important that staff members feel safe and comfortable interacting with each other and with residents, even as the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to the public.

Philadelphia residents may also qualify for no-cost to low-cost vocational skills training to advance their careers across various industries including healthcare, technology, construction, and more. Anyone interested in accessing tips and information on career pathways or training programs, can complete an interest form to connect with a PA CareerLink representative to learn more about training program eligibility and requirements. It’s also a good idea to explore our local PA CareerLink vocational skills training program calendar by visiting

Dawn: What about businesses? How might they benefit from the public workforce system?

Patrick: The public workforce system provides many no-cost solutions for businesses that employ Philadelphia residents. It depends on what they are trying to accomplish. For immediate needs such as recruitment, pre-screening, and hiring events, they would connect to our business services team through our local CareerLink.

To learn more about resources, services, and supports to help your business grow, contact Philadelphia Works’ Business Engagement Team at [email protected] or call 215-854-1994 to connect with one of our business engagement representatives.

Businesses can also access data through our research and data team to help understand our region’s labor market to make informed decisions about growth strategies, hiring, and locations. This data also helps business owners make smart workforce decisions – helping them find, grow, and retain the talent they need to remain competitive in this ever-evolving market. For data information, they should visit our Data and Trends page on our website at

Dawn: What would you say to career seekers with special circumstances, like older adults, veterans, or a person with a disability?

Patrick: Our local PA CareerLink centers have a large list of partners and providers that have programs and services designed to meet the diverse workforce needs of our residents. For example, Philadelphia Works is a funding partner for Community Integrated Services (, also known as CIS. They provide direct employment services to people with disabilities. There are many other partners like CIS within the workforce system that focus on the needs, opportunities, and challenges for specific populations. A career seeker with a special circumstance or their caregiver could connect with workforce advisor at one of our centers for more information and ways to be connected to the appropriate resources.

Dawn: There are so many programs and services that support businesses and career seekers in the Philadelphia region, how does Philadelphia Works know what workforce solutions to invest in?

Patrick: Well to be transparent, to operate as a local workforce board, there are priority activities that we must do, such as regional and local planning. Some investments are determined by the state; however, our research team constantly analyzes local workforce data and trends to ensure that the leaders at Philadelphia Works make informed decisions about where to invest additional resources. A large part of our mission is to ensure that we invest in programs that fit with state and federal initiatives while tailoring them to Philadelphia’s unique needs. In closing, I must express my appreciation of the staff at Philadelphia Works and all our workforce partners. There has been a lot of shifting in the way we conduct business this past year, and their flexibility is just a testament to how dedicated and committed the system is in advocating for equity in accessing resources and opportunities, even in these unparallel times.



Workforce Wednesday is in partnership with Metro Newspaper.