A Point Breeze community center hosted the launch of a multi-partnered strategy against employment woes.
Little brings more satisfaction than landing a job, and less forges more frustration than losing that post soon after its acquisition.
Low-skilled workers find themselves having to part with positions in such extreme numbers that numerous agents combined to announce a three-year initiative to reduce worry and increase bank accounts Dec. 7 at Dixon House, 1920 S. 20th St.
A division of Diversified Community Services, 1529 S. 22nd St., which promotes self-sufficiency among children and families through an abundance of activities, the 93-year-old site typically assists more than 3,000 annual participants eager for answers. Last week’s event welcomed a fervent crowd coveting solutions to a troubling occupational oddity that strikes Philadelphia, namely, a lack of workforce programs for helping people to retain and progress in their jobs. The Federation of Neighborhood Centers oversaw the gathering and will manage the Career Support Network with Center City neighbors Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and the Job Opportunity Investment Network.
“It is great to see systems and institutions working together to help families, the cornerstones of all neighborhoods, to obtain economic stability,” Mitch Little, Diversified’s deputy director, said.
According to figures from the U.S. Census and Center City’s Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board, whose senior associate for strategy and innovation, Sue Hoffman, sat on the day’s panel, 41 percent of working-age adults are unemployed, 40 percent of employed individuals do not earn family-sustaining wages and 50 percent of low-skilled workers fortunate to find work become unemployed within one year, Diane Cornman-Levy, the federation’s executive director, said.
Cornman-Levy and her allies, with contributions from numerous foundations that bring the network’s allotment to $850,000, want to energize people by suppressing the barriers to prolonged, viable employment, which they have determined are a dearth of peer support, mental and physical health problems, pressing family needs and unreliable transportation. The federation, which counts Point Breeze among its 45 aided neighborhoods, is countering those travails with a network of offerings, including counseling and job training.
“The task possesses difficulty,” Jennie Sparandara, Job Opportunity Investment Network’s director, said to the few dozen attendees, “but it is worth it to find new ways to address vexing problems.”
Jerry Tapley has seen similarly ambitious endeavors fail yet sees this model as more powerful because it features a widened conglomerate of career support advocates.
“I know all about unsuccessful programs and ones that have made modifications yet produced little,” the federation’s chief operating officer said.
The unified representatives — including Jefferson’s Dr. James Plumb, whose employer is hoping to quell the targeted population’s struggles with asthma, diabetes, hypertension and obesity; and Pennsylvania Horticultural Society project manager Francis Lawn, who is running a program for ex-offenders — have ample resources, yet they know what they must generate matters as much as, if not more than, their means.
“We need familiarity to establish trust and trust to remove reservation,” Tapley said.
To ease trepidation, the Career Support Network heads will design employer advisory boards from which they will collect data to determine the most advantageous strategies and will speak with participants and supervisors to bolster the city’s overall job and quality of life statuses.
“The public workforce system recognizes the needs for enhanced support services to help Philadelphians build skills to find, keep and advance in their jobs,” Hoffman said.
With help from her company, David Dennis has become a star. For the last two years, with the federation as manager and Diversified’s funder, it has overseen the Neighborhood Green Job Readiness Partnership. Dennis became reacquainted with Dixon House last week, as he graduated from one of its 2010 initiatives. The ensuing months have proven kind to him, as he has earned six certifications and a teaching position at North Philly’s Energy Coordinating Agency. Unemployed before enrolling, he credits the federation’s existing relationships for helping him and expects new unions to guide thousands to improved productivity and larger paychecks.
“The help I received provided a pathway of hope,” the resident of 22nd and Wharton streets said. “I realized a job would not be good enough for me and my family. I needed a career.”
Teeming with optimism, he constructed ideas of starting a business, seeking to use his green acumen to better not only his pockets but also the property value of as many homes as possible.
“I have become so ambitious. Therefore, after I make every house in Philadelphia energy efficient, I’ll be moving abroad,” he said as the small crowd joined in laughter.
The federation interacts with 10 community-based institutions tasked with offering culturally sensitive programs and services to more than 25,000 disadvantaged children, adults and families. More than 8,000 of those parties find aid through Diversified, which incorporated in 1968 and runs Dixon House; the Mamie Nichols Center from its headquarters; Dixon Learning Academy, 2201 Moore St.; Western Learning Center, 1613 South St.; and out-of-school time programs at Delaplaine McDaniel School, 1801 S. 22nd St., and Universal Vare Charter Middle School, 2100 S. 24th St.
Dixon House abounds with bodies that come to partake in its community forums, receive health services, enjoy social events, use its computer lab, obtain housing counseling and gain tips through its parenting education program. The network’s outreach may be in its infancy as it helps Dixon House and North Philly’s Lutheran Settlement House to build thriving areas, but Southwest Philly’s Wayne Byrd has already proven it prosperous. Six months removed from time in Georgia, he called upon Dixon House to rejuvenate his health-care career.
The amphibious philosopher Kermit the Frog lamented “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” Though referring to his skin, he could have been alluding to environmental upkeep. Since last winter, students at two area community centers have been proving the latter need not pose any difficulty.
“Woo, I’m a South Philly Difference Maker,” Mitch Little said when he was informed of his selection as his son Ethan, 5, screamed with delight. The single father may be a Difference Maker to his boy, but also is changing the lives of those throughout Point Breeze and Grays Ferry.