Mayor Michael A. Nutter and IBM announced a partnered effort to support workforce development by increasing the accessibility and functionality of the Digital On-Ramps initiative, a citywide collaborative aimed at providing “anytime, anywhere” learning and workforce training to Philadelphians. In total, IBM’s donations to the City of Philadelphia to improve workforce development with new computers, software and the Smarter Cities Challenge grant report total more than $1 million.
“In order for Philadelphia to be a 21st century work-ready city, our workers need to be better prepared, educated and trained. Our partnership with IBM is an important first step in furthering existing initiatives and developing new solutions to improve workforce development,” said Mayor Nutter. “IBM has essentially created a roadmap to guide our Administration’s continuing efforts to build workforce development and education using digital technology.”
The City of Philadelphia and its public partners will use technology to support existing literacy and workforce training programs. The strategies will help improve education and workforce training programs by:
- Enabling residents to access critical skills training anytime, anywhere via a smartphone or computer;
- Connecting them to other learners digitally and developing an online community to foster collaboration and peer learning;
- Helping them to identify what skills they need to find a job and where to get them; and
- Providing them with up-to-date information on how to access in-person skills training programs and other resources.
The new Digital On-Ramps model will utilize non-profit organizations, public and private partners to combat the growing disparity between workers skills and available jobs in Philadelphia. Over a four-year period, Digital On-Ramps aims to serve the 175,000 youth and adults already enrolled in the Philadelphia learning community.
As a part of the Smarter Cities Challenge grant, IBM specialists compiled a report on the state of workforce development of the City through interviews with city officials, employees and non-profit leaders. The findings have been assembled into a list of recommendations that the City of Philadelphia can use to improve the Digital On-Ramps initiative.
“Philadelphia is making an important effort to close the gap between skills and jobs and it’s doing it in the right way – in a partnership that brings the private and public sectors together,” said Stanley S. Litow, IBM’s Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs and President, IBM International Foundation. “We look forward to continuing to partner with the city to help produce a more educated, employable, and prosperous citizenry.”
In addition, IBM announced it would donate Reading Companion software to be installed on computers in 19 area recreation centers. Reading Companion employs voice recognition to listen and provide feedback to users to help them hone their reading skills. IBM also announced the donation of 100 Young Explorer computers to the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition. The computers will be used at several Freedom Rings public computer centers to help children learn math, science and language arts concepts.