Guest commentator: Festo Okidi, Director, Partnerships for Employment Pathways, Philadelphia Youth Network @PYNinc

How can employers play a role in building our region’s future talent pipeline?

Employers have a huge role to play in building our region’s talent pipeline. More than anyone, they understand that if the gap continues to grow between the skills that employers need and how job applicants are prepared, there will be a significant impact on the competitiveness of our regional economy. Offering early employment opportunities is one way to address what has been cited as a barrier to talent recruitment and retention.

WorkReady Philadelphia connects young people with summer internship opportunities that support their long-term financial success and, in turn, help the economic progress of Philadelphia.

For the business community, this progress takes shape in a variety of ways. Businesses can increase their competitive advantage by tapping into the innovative ideas interns bring to the workplace, while increasing the potential for greater customer connection and workforce diversity. An added benefit is that businesses that financially invest in summer opportunities are at the same time giving back to the neighborhoods and city in which they do business.

This past summer, Chamber member companies financially supported nearly 500 summer jobs through WorkReady. Experiences took place across the city in a variety of settings including colleges and universities, hospitals, banks, accounting and law firms, real estate agencies, and advanced manufacturing plants.

These interns took away valuable lessons in teamwork and collaboration, exposure to tools and resources that businesses use to solve real-world business challenges, and an opportunity to identify what additional skills they need to pursue their career interests. Most importantly, they gained a network of professionals who they can now tap into for professional and career guidance.

If you chose to sign on as an employer, you will not be expected to take this journey alone. Philadelphia Youth Network, which manages WorkReady, has a team ready to work side-by-side with you, dedicating time and resources that you can use to bring young talent into your workplace. You will be joining a large network of companies that have already found out just how easy it is to begin bridging the skill gap.

If you are interested in having this conversation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

The Philadelphia Youth Network is a member of the Chamber’s Talent Action Team, a cross-disciplinary group of 120+ leaders focused on creating clear pathways for the alignment between individuals and employers to assure that we are training and engaging the region’s current and future leaders.


The Chamber is an enthusiastic employer partner of the Philadelphia Youth Network’s WorkReady program. WorkReady is a citywide effort to address the skills gap by convening partners, employers, leaders of youth-serving systems and youth to build a coordinated approach to preparing young people for future employment.