Who's Boosting Youth Employment in Five U.S. Cities?

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is based in Baltimore, but regularly makes grants all across the country. And just recently, Philadelphia was chosen as one of five U.S. cities to receive the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s support for increasing job opportunities for young adults.

The Casey Foundation made a $6 million commitment to this cause, and Philadelphia groups will be receiving nearly $1 million of that money. The other city grantees are Cleveland, Hartford, Seattle and Indianapolis. The commitment will be stretched out over the next four years through the foundation’s Generation Work initiative, which assists low-income young adults of color between the ages of 18 and 29.

"Through Generation Work, we aim to transform Philadelphia's skill development landscape so that all young adults (18-29) have access to relevant, engaging careers and employers have access to strong, productive talent pipelines," said Jennie Sparandara, Director of Philadelphia's Job Opportunity Investment Network.

The first step in this funding is a $100,000 planning grant to each city. The foundation says that subsequent funding could actually extend up to eight years to implement plans in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

In Philadelphia, these are the participating partnerships:

  • Job Opportunity Investment Network (lead partner)
  • District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund
  • Youth Build Philadelphia Charter School
  • Philadelphia Youth Network

These AECF partnerships require the organizations to bring together employers, policymakers, funders and practitioners to “match training and on-the-job learning with the skills needed in the workplace.” The goals and types of jobs in focus vary from city to city.

From an outsider's point of view, it might not seem all that difficult to get an entry-level job. However, statistics show that millions of young adults face obstacles to employment that, over the years, has resulted in this demographic's steady decline as a percentage of the overall job market. For example, today’s youth often don’t have the job skills that employers need. And far too often, young people of color from low-income families aren’t getting the education they need to be competitive in the workforce. AECF’s Generation Work initiative involves building relationships with local businesses, assessing the needs of the local economy, and providing mentoring and on-the-job learning opportunities.

“Our future workforce is one of our nation’s greatest assets, and we cannot compete globally unless it is strong,” said Allison Gerber, who oversees the Casey Foundation’s investments in improving job opportunities for low-income individuals and families. “The next generation is eager to work, but we must create more avenues for young adults to develop the knowledge and experience they need to succeed in the job market.”

Check out the AECF’s Pennsylvania page to learn about other funding opportunities within the state. Most of the foundation’s statewide support has been geared towards younger kids lately, with a campaign for reading proficiency by the third grade, foster care, juvenile detention and child wellness. However, the foundation is also concerned with leadership development and financial stability for families in Pennsylvania.