New Casey Foundation Investment in Philadelphia Aims to Improve Job Prospects for Young Adults

YouthBuild Philly is proud to be a core partner in Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Generation Work initiative. Philadelphia has been named one of five cities to receive a four-year grant to improve employment opportunities for young adults.

This work is strongly aligned with our vision of improving opportunities for young people across the city. We look forward to all the collaboration ahead with AECF, JOIN Collaborative, 1199C Training Fund and Philadelphia Youth Network, Inc. – and the many stakeholders this project will engage – to address youth unemployment in Philadelphia and beyond.

Read on for the full release:

New Casey Foundation Investment in Philadelphia Aims to Improve   Job Prospects for Young Adults

Nearly $1 Million to be Awarded Over Four Years to Strengthen the Next Generation of Workers and Meet Employer Demand

PHILADELPHIA — The Annie E. Casey Foundation announced today that it will award $6 million in grants over the next four years to increase job opportunities for America’s young adults in five cities, enabling them to begin building careers and develop the skills employers need. Nearly $1 million will be invested in Philadelphia through a new, nimble, initiative called Generation Work.

Generation Work will bring the best efforts of employers, funders, policymakers and practitioners together to match training and education with the skills needed in the workplace. This project leverages the collective expertise of four nationally-recognized core partners in Philadelphia — the Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN), Philadelphia Youth Network, YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School, and District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund – and connects Philadelphia to a national learning community for four years of investment by the Casey Foundation in building the infrastructure needed to get more young adults working.

“Our future workforce is one of our nation’s greatest assets, and we cannot compete globally unless it is strong,” said Allison Gerber, a senior associate 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.”

While the Great Recession hit many hard, teens and young adults have experienced the most drastic drop in employment, data shows. In Philadelphia the need for action and change is urgent; nearly one in five young Philadelphians is disconnected – out of work and out of school. Across the country, millions of young people — particularly young people of color and from low-income families — face obstacles to employment or education, and the percentage of young people ages 18–29 in the job market has steadily declined in recent years. At the same time, employers often struggle to find workers with the right set of skills for available positions.

Generation Work aims to combine building relationships with businesses, factoring in their needs in the local economy, with youth development strategies to prepare young people for work, such as mentoring and on-the-job learning opportunities.

“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 JOIN.

“We can only do this through partnerships with employers, funders, practitioners and policymakers that share the same commitment to strengthening our workforce,” added Jim Cawley, president and CEO, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ), the managing partner of the JOIN funders collaborative.”

Philadelphia was selected for funding because it has demonstrated a promising approach to young adult employment, with a particular focus on those facing some of the greatest obstacles to getting a job; the ability to effectively implement services for young job seekers and employers; and the potential to help foster broader uptake of their approaches in their respective geographic areas, among other strengths.

“Partnership is the key to success when it comes to aligning all of our best strategies, citywide, to ensure young Philadelphians are able to reach the next level in their professional and personal goals,” said Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Youth Network. “We are able to reach higher, and achieve greater results when we grow together as a team. I look forward to working with 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund, YouthBuild and other leaders to combine our collective efforts and systemic tools to expand opportunity so that access to employment and education are no longer hurdles to jump, but doors to open.”

JOIN, housed and managed by UWGPSNJ, will serve as the grant manager. The Foundation’s award will be used in the first year to engage key stakeholders and plan the implementation and evaluation of strategies to increase young adults’ access to job opportunities. Funding in subsequent years will support  documenting the impact of their efforts and promoting the use of these strategies on a broad scale in the public, private and nonprofit sector.


The Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN) is a partnership between philanthropy, government, community organizations and employers that develops and supports innovative efforts to eliminate the mismatch between the level of skill required for high growth jobs and the much lower skill level of many working age Philadelphians. JOIN is housed and managed by United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. For more information, visit

The Philadelphia Youth Network is an intermediary organization dedicated to equipping young people with the skills necessary to accomplish academic achievement, economic opportunity and personal success. To succeed in this mission, we bring together cross-sector partners from around the city to expand access to services for underserved youth and young adults ages 12-24. For more information, visit

District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund – District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund, a labor management partnership comprised of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees AFSCME and 50 healthcare employers, serves as a healthcare workforce intermediary and an educational institution. Since its creation in 1974, the Training Fund has built the capacity of the Delaware Valley’s healthcare industry to create a highly-skilled workforce through on-the-job training opportunities and the development of an education pipeline of skilled talent that matches the workforce needs of Delaware Valley healthcare employers. For more information visit

YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School – The mission of YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School is to provide out-of-school youth in Philadelphia with the broadest range of tools, supports and opportunities available to become self-sufficient, responsible and productive citizens in their community. The first year of our program offers high school dropouts a second chance to earn their diplomas while developing vital job skills through rigorous academics, vocational training and community service; the second year supports them towards success in employment or postsecondary education. Learn more at

The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit

Business Administration Scholars profiled in SHARE Food Newsletter

This school year, YouthBuild Philly students in the Business Administration track began volunteering at the SHARE food warehouse in North Philadelphia to develop their administration, operations and customer service skills while serving their community.

In this month’s community newsletter, SHARE highlighted some of the BAS students who volunteered over the holidays on one of the winter’s coldest days.  We are very proud of our students’ service to food-insecure Philadelphians, and also proud to have SHARE as one of our service partners!  Check out the newsletter clip below, and visit to learn more about the food warehouse’s program

Perseverance Prevails

Also working in the warehouse on that bitterly cold day were three teens from YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School.

YouthBuild offers a unique, one-year program that provides high school dropouts a chance to earn their diplomas while learning vital job skills and engaging in valuable community service. Just over 200 young men and women between the ages of 18 and 21 attend YouthBuild, which is located on Broad Street, just north of Girard Avenue in Philadelphia.

Christian, Alonzo, and Anthony each have experienced hardship in their young lives, but with YouthBuild’s encouragement and well-structured one-year program, they have been able to concentrate on their studies while also developing marketable skills that will help ensure gainful employment. Along with their fellow students, they attend class and devote several hours each week to on-the-job training. Here at SHARE, these friendly and focused young men are learning to use equipment, discovering the basics of retail marketing, and coming to terms with the value of following instructions to complete their assigned tasks.

SHARE’s Executive Director Steveanna Wynn practices tough loves when it comes to the YouthBuild students. If they complain about having to walk quickly through the vast warehouse spaces, she points out that although old enough to be their grandmom, she makes that same trek several times each day, no matter how low the temperature dips. And last September, when Mother Nature decided to offer up a few final scorching days, Steveanna insisted that vegetable harvesting continue, despite the intense heat. These are lessons well learned—that completing what is expected of you is not optional.

YouthBuild has three core values: excellence, respect, and perseverance. The school believes that every student, regardless of his or her past, can embrace these values and achieve anything. SHARE is honored to be helping these students realize their potential, and is grateful for the contribution they are making to reducing hunger among the region’s low-income households.

Mayor Nutter Shout-out to Alumni Zurrell Toney

On Thursday, March 4, Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter delivered his annual Budget Address, “Fighting for Philadelphia: A Safer, Smarter and More Sustainable Future” before City Council, and he gave special recognition to our 2009 valedictorian, Zurrell Toney:

Across the city, thousands of Philadelphians are acting in partnership with their government, giving back to communities, volunteering in town watch, mentoring a child, spending time at hospitals, recreation centers and much more.

Each one is living the ideal of Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection … Philadelphia, The City of Service.

There’s Zurrell Toney, a high school dropout who became an AmeriCorps volunteer logging more than 900 hours rebuilding homes for low-income families.

I met him at his graduation from YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School where he was the valedictorian. He’s now in college with dreams of owning a business. Please recognize Zurrell.”  (Full text)

Zurrell is currently earning high marks at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, and recently stepped into a leadership role in his business class for a semester long group project.  Congratulations Zurrell!

A long time supporter of YouthBuild Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter keynoted our 2009 commencement ceremony, and we are proud to call him a member of the YouthBuild family!

Watch the video of the Mayor’s Budget Address at (shout-out at 13:20)

Students Celebrate Home and Life Makeover

Over 200 of our students and staff gathered today with partners and local community members to celebrate the completion of a rehabilitated home in North Philadelphia.  We held the ribbon cutting ceremony with Resources for Human Development (RHD), our community development corporation partner on the rehabilitation of the home.Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Executive Director Simran Sidhu led the dedication ceremony, which included speeches from Solomon Jones, Community Outreach Director for Congressman Chaka Fattah, and RHD’s Affordable Housing Program Property Coordinator Sarah Duncan. Janita Oliver and Robin Knight, students from the construction training program, spoke about their experience rebuilding the home.

Class of 2009 technology student Felicia Wilder presented a refurbished computer to the new residents. Students from our health care program demonstrated their nurse aide skills and presented the new homeowners with a welcome basket during the ceremony. Smith & Solomon partnered with students in our new Commercial Driver’s License training program to showcase a “Big Rig” truck for attendees.

ABC6 Action News‘ Denise James covered the event

See more photos of the event.

YouthBuild Philadelphia goes to Washington!

Today, YouthBuild Philadelphia led a “green” home building initiative at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in celebration of YouthBuild USA’s 30th anniversary. Roughly 20 students and instructors joined more than 100 other young leaders from YouthBuild programs across the country, in addition to public officials and community leaders, to frame the walls of an energy-efficient, affordable home for a low-income family in Brownsville, Texas. The participants raised the walls of the house during the afternoon, after which the pieces were sent to Brownsville for completion.

First Lady Michelle Obama keynoted in a special afternoon ceremony, commending the students on their commitment to green initiatives and community service. Obama was introduced by YouthBuild USA Founder and President Dorothy Stoneman. Senator John Kerry closed the ceremony, speaking about his long-time friendship with Stoneman, and reminiscing about his participation in encouraging the first federal funding support for YouthBuild.

While in the District, students also participated in a “green” school, learning about green collar jobs, green schools, energy responsibility and environmental awareness.  We incorporate many green practices into our rehabilitation projects, such as the installation of Energy Star Appliances and high efficiency heating systems, and the use of energy efficient insulation and windows. The March green building project exposed students to new green techniques and enhanced our stake in green initiatives in the Philadelphia community.

In fact, we’ve already identified one house rehabilitation project (in the Nicetown area of Philadelphia) for the 2009-2010 program year, where our students will incorporate all green building techniques.  Read more about our green building initiatives in the Philadelphia Inquirer (May 21, 2009).

See more photos here.