How Philadelphia is Tapping into Walmart’s Workforce Funding Fortune

Credit: Walmart Corporate via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)Earlier this year, we covered the news that the Walmart Foundation gave $10.9 million to a Chicago workforce agency to fund education and employment services for retail workers. But as we noted back then, not all of those millions were destined to stay in Chicago. In fact, only about one-third of that commitment stayed local, and it was made clear from the beginning that Chicago would have to share the money with about 10 other locations.

Related: Beyond the Dead End Job: What's Walmart Up To With Its Workforce Funding?

Today’s story brings us to Philadelphia, where a jobs program here is tapping into some of this Walmart money. Not long ago, Philadelphia Works received a $400,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation to assist retailers in the Philadelphia region with their hiring and also help 100 job seekers find careers. The local organization will also be using Walmart funding for job readiness training, interviewing skills, resume writing, job placement help, and post-placement follow-up. This grant is part of the $10.9 million Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership commitment.

“With the retail industry supporting one in four American jobs, this grant presents a tremendous potential for impact, from entry-level to middle skills jobs," Mark Edwards, Philadelphia Works' president and CEO, said in a statement. "The goal of this grant is to create clear and scalable career paths in retail for hundreds of workers, providing skills training and new approaches to accelerate career advancement."

Something interesting about this grant is that it’s not just going towards helping people find jobs, but also helping companies recruit workers. Philadelphia Works will be using the grant to connect with 30 local employers to put at least 100 people to work in new jobs. It’ll also be used to help these local companies write job descriptions, train new employees, screen potential candidates, and keep new employees onboard.

Philadelphia Works receives support not only from big corporate funders like Walmart, but also federal, state, and city sources. It was chosen as one of 10 Workforce Development Boards (WDBs) that received between $200,000 and $422,652 and aim to benefit between 200 and 325 people each. These are the other WDB locations receiving grants for the first year of this two-year grant program: Millersville, Maryland; Monticello, Minnesota; Denver; Los Angeles; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Valparaiso, Indiana; San Diego; Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Everett, Washington.

Based on July 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment rates, the Philadelphia Metro Area has a 5.8 rate of unemployment, compared with the national average of 5.1.