Investing in Philadelphia’s Future Through Our Youth

Stacy E. Holland

Stacy E. Holland is being honored as a Youth Jobs+ Champion of Change for her innovative work to develop the discipline and skills associated with employment for our country’s youth.  

Daquan, a high school junior in Philadelphia, discovered a passion for the culinary arts through his summer internship this year working at a local restaurant.  He worked behind-the-scenes in the kitchen, and as college approaches, Daquan is thinking of pursuing his newly found forte. 

Sidney graduated high school this year and began her freshman year of college.  She’s known for quite some time that she wants to work in healthcare, but this year’s summer internship provided her with access to professionals in the field offering valuable advice on how to reach her goals.

This summer, thousands of young people like Daquan and Sidney joined the workforce through WorkReady Philadelphia – a citywide, cross-sector partnership dedicated to improving the outcomes of the region’s youth by attracting, aligning, and investing resources in youth workforce-development. 

These powerful stories of youth identifying and expanding their career aspirations through work experience are the very essence of why WorkReady was launched ten years ago.  Since 2003, our city has been working to ensure that youth in the Philadelphia region have access to the academic, career and support services necessary to build bright futures and prepare them to be leaders in the workforce. 

Recognizing that the future economic stability of Philadelphia is predicated on our youth’s ability to compete locally and globally, we are implementing unique solutions to grow and prepare young people for career and educational success. Our portfolio of summer and year-round WorkReady programs is designed to introduce participants to careers, develop their work-based knowledge, and serve as a catalyst for their education and career planning. 

In particular, WorkReady summer experiences offer educationally-enriched work opportunities to in-school and out-of-school youth ages 14-21. Participants complete a six-week (120 hour), paid work experience that fosters the acquisition of 21st Century skills through work-based learning. 

In Philadelphia, we fundamentally believe the job of developing our young people to be talented professionals of tomorrow is far too big to be the responsibility of any single institution or organization.  It requires the community to work together in partnership to achieve that goal.  Our community of government officials, educators, community-based organizations, funders, and employers work collaboratively to ensure that we not only prepare young people for future success, but to make the larger community, Philadelphia, a better place to live and work.

Moreover, along with our partners, WorkReady Philadelphia is driving change and creating a significant impact.  Since 2003, we have:

  • Put more than 86,000 youth to work in internships and training programs
  • Raised more than $12 million in employer support for youth internships
  • Infused more than $62 million into the local economy through wages paid to youth
  • Facilitated on-the-job experiences for youth at over 1,000 worksites across the region

Our system is unique, but our motivation is simple.  How can we provide more young people, like Daquan and Sidney, with transformative, career-connected opportunities? This is a movement that is designed to power the next generation and we are committed to not failing.  Their lives depend on it. 

Stacy E. Holland is the Co-Founder and Former President & CEO of the Philadelphia Youth Network.  She will continue her work in advocating in preparing youth for college and career success in her new role as the Chief of Strategic Partnerships at the School District of Philadelphia.

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