$5 million from Lenfest Foundation will bring career training to West Philly

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By Roberto Torres | Technical.ly Philly | February 16, 2017

In West Philadelphia, where some 81,000 residents live under the poverty line, access to skills and a pathway to careers can provide lasting change. That’s the driving force behind the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, a joint effort from Drexel University, the University City District and the University City Science Center that received a $5 million grant from the Lenfest Foundation Thursday.

The program will aim to connect West Philly residents to jobs in University City’s tech corridor.

Over the next three years, efforts deployed by the three organizations will seek to place 600 previously unemployed residents in careers. Some 250 West Philly adults and high-schoolers will also get access to credentials, certifications and exposure to STEM training.

“We are grateful for this funding from the Lenfest Foundation that will enable us to accelerate our mission to inspire and lead an inclusive community of innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Curtis Hess, interim president and CEO of the University City Science Center.

While not constrained to any one neighborhood, the City of Philadelphiarecently announced its own workforce development program, one that seeks to draft local businesses to create more opportunities in the middle-skills space.

University City District president Matt Bergheiser and Lenfest Foundation chairman Keith Leaphart penned an op-ed in the Inquirer Thursday announcing the grant.

“In University City, economic development organizations, business leaders, anchor institutions, and philanthropists dream of leveraging the opportunities of growth to address the challenges of poverty and, in the process, bringing new talent to bear on University City workplaces,” the op-ed reads. “All of these dreams received a big boost today.”