By Dr. Kevin R. Johnson, President & CEO, Philadelphia OIC
Philadelphia OIC has a long and well-earned reputation as a workforce development leader that helps people help themselves. Founded during the civil rights movement, we have long-focused on educational gains and economic empowerment among some of the city’s most vulnerable populations. Bridging education and economic opportunity closes the divide in our city between the haves and have nots, and we are pleased to be doing so in partnership with Comcast.
Today, the new frontier for skills, jobs and entrepreneurship is the information superhighway, but many in our city are not adequately prepared to take first steps on this road, much less drive to success. With a valued and trusted partner like Comcast, Philadelphia OIC is equipping thousands of Philadelphians annually to bridge the digital divide and drive their own career success.
Philadelphia OIC offers multiple education and job training opportunities rooted in moving from digital literacy to digital fluency, all with support from Comcast. We offer dozens of classes each year both at our main campus in North Philadelphia and at sites across the city in the basics of computing, software, and the Internet. Since 2011, we have served more than 16,000 clients, partnering with 22 organizations.
For 2015, through the end of November alone, we have served more than 3,500 client visitors – 62% of whom come from five of the 10 poorest zip codes in Philadelphia.
A sampling of student information reveals that nearly two-thirds of our current students come from neighborhoods with rates of household poverty at or above 32%. More than one out of three persons we teach comes from the 19121 zip code, which a Pew Trust 2013 State of the City Report measured as the second poorest area in the city, with a rate of poverty of 53.4 percent of households.
The training we provide makes a direct impact on poverty and provides a bridge to digital access. For instance, Internet Essentials is available to families with a child that qualifies for the national school lunch program or attends a school where more than 50% of the students do. Many of our clients fit that profile, so we work with Comcast to inform them of the benefits of the program and make sure they are prepared to take advantage of the service.
Further, digital literacy is combined with adult basic education and job training in a city where the use of computers is now required to earn a GED or to do many gateway jobs in growing industries. A city of Philadelphia report suggests that by 2030 nearly 600,000 residents may not have the necessary digital skills for gateway jobs in the region. Philadelphia OIC is committed to bridging this gap between education and job opportunity. Our student sampling indicates more than 70% of our digital literacy students are between 19 and 49 years of age, prime working years.
Our blended classroom for GED instruction offers in-classroom instruction in a computer lab setting, plus we equip students to continue learning on their own in our lab or at home online. Through our highly regarded Hospitality Training Institute, we have trained more than 6,000 women and men in jobs for front desk operations, guest room attendant/environmental services, and culinary arts, leveraging technical skills in office applications, hospitality industry software and digital skills that create value-added efficiency and expertise in hotels, restaurants and other service industry locations where our students are hired.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the skills that under-gird adult basic education, and support general industry training, are further enhanced through our commitment to train people to specifically work in the information technology sector. Federal workforce data estimates there are as many at 14,000 unfilled IT jobs in the Philadelphia region due to a shortage of qualified workers.
The Comcast Foundation recently invested in a partnership led by Philadelphia OIC, along with Coded by U and Wilco Electronic Systems that expands training for IT jobs through a coding bootcamp, serving youth and adults in our city.
Philadelphia OIC is proud to be a digital bridge builder, linking cutting-edge thought with innovative practice, combining digital education with economic opportunity, and leveraging corporate partnerships with socially-responsible businesses like Comcast to create value and opportunity for vulnerable populations in our communities throughout Philadelphia.