Philadelphia Business Community Tackling Youth Unemployment

December 3, 2015

When people across the country hear “Philadelphia”, they probably think about things like cheese steaks, the Liberty Bell, passionate sports fans, or the most celebrated underdog in movie history—Rocky Balboa. In fact, the city of brotherly love has much more to offer than this. The Philadelphia area is home to a number of Fortune 500 companies including Comcast, Sunoco, Aramark, Universal Health Services, and Lincoln National Corporation. We also have a wide variety of world-class postsecondary institutions including St. Joseph’s University, Drexel University, Temple University, and the University of Pennsylvania.

One of the big challenges for the region is connecting the business community with skilled talent to fill vacant jobs and strengthen the area’s competitiveness. More specifically, there is an opportunity to develop the talents of young people.

The Main Line Chamber of Commerce (MLCC) is dedicated to creating a youth talent pipeline. Eighteen months ago, MLCC launched the Talent and Education Network (TEN)—an employer-led collaborative that sets out to address the gaps between businesses and entry-level workers to provide employers with the talent needed to thrive in the Greater Philadelphia region.

MLCC, in collaboration with its member companies, has identified three gaps:

  1. The Talent Gap – Employers that struggle to fill open positions and create pipeline replacements
  2. The Skills Gap – Young adults that lack the skills required to succeed in entry level positions
  3. The Technology Gap – Employers that need IT skill sets to stay competitive in the digital world

TEN is tackling this challenge by enhancing career awareness, career preparedness and career training with forums, workshops, and internships for young adults 18-24 years old.

On November 17th, MLCC’s TEN members hosted the Technology Job Summit held at Cabrini College in Radnor, PA. The more than 60 attendees, consisting of local universities, employers, and nonprofit organizations, engaged in conversation on the prognosis of the future technology talent needs of regional companies and the role of the region’s educational institutions in meeting talent needs.

Bernie Dagenais, president and CEO of MLCC announced that Main Line’s TEN program received a $75,000 grant from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) to expand its work in 2016 and beyond. As a member of USCCF’s Youth Employment Network, the TEN program can offer three times the amount of internship opportunities than in past years. Additionally, TEN will now provide professional development workshops to 250-300 students focused on critical soft skills such as communications and teamwork in a corporate setting.

“We’re primarily focused on trying to make sure that the companies that are trying to grow in this region have the talent they need,” Dagenais says. “By concentrating on the needs of the companies, we’re helping colleges and universities that want to make sure that their students get jobs — and by the way, parents care a lot about this as well.”

Through employer-led efforts like these, we can help ensure young people in the region can gain meaningful skills while employers can be confident they’ll have the talent necessary to compete in the 21st century.


Quincy Stephens is the director of talent and education and Carly Genoy is an intern at The Main Line Chamber of Commerce.