ACHIEVEability

Organizational mission statement (50 words or less): 

Since its founding by Sisters of Mercy, business executives and professionals, and homeless women in 1981, ACHIEVEability works each day to permanently break the generational cycle of poverty for low income, single parent, and homeless families through higher education, affordable housing, supportive services, and community and economic development. 

Brief description of organization (include key programs and recent achievements, 100 words or less):

ACHIEVEability partners with individuals and families to address the inter‐related social challenges of poverty, high unemployment, and low educational attainment. We achieve this through our core programs: Family Self-Sufficiency Program, ACHIEVEability Connects, and WorkSmart West Philly. We served over 2,800 individuals in FY 20.
 

Our Programs:  
Family Self-Sufficiency Program: This transformational program is built upon the belief in a college education as the pathway to self-sufficiency, the use of a high accountability model, and the recognition that our parents are role models for their children in fulfilling our mission to break the generational cycle of poverty. Families experiencing or at-risk of homelessness are provided affordable housing and a coaching team and commit to pursuing post-secondary credentials as a way to overcome poverty. FY20 IMPACT: 123 families and 273 children served; 71% of families who exited were connected to permanent housing; 53% of participants increased their annual earned income since entry with an average gain of $13,253; and 100% of school-age children persisted in school.                                                                                                                                                            
ACHIEVEability Connects: Since 2006, this program has helped residents meet their basic needs through services including public benefits connections; emergency financial assistance; tax preparation; financial education; computer and digital literacy training; community meetings; civic engagement opportunities; resource fairs; and leadership development. We also focus on improving neighborhood conditions by providing technical assistance to 60th Street Commercial Corridor business owners and supporting a Neighborhood Advisory Subcommittee, corridor-cleaning initiatives, vacant lot cleaning projects, and community garden spaces. FY20 IMPACT: 2,541 individuals served; 629 individuals received free tax preparation; 467 individuals received financial counseling; and 105 individuals received emergency utility assistance.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            WorkSmart West Philly: In 2015, we launched this program to prepare and connect individuals to workforce opportunities. We help jobseekers expand their employment-focused economic opportunities and increase their employability through job readiness training, soft skills training, cultivation of employers, connection to employment, and job retention coaching. FY20 IMPACT: 203 individuals served; 176 participants developed resumes; 94 participants participated in job readiness workshops; and 53 participants were connected to employment.

Population served (25 words or less): 

ACHIEVEability serves low-income Philadelphian individuals and families. In FY20, our population served was 98% African American, 76% female, with 100% of participants living below 200% poverty level.

 

Geographic area(s) served: 

 

ACHIEVEability serves West Philadelphian zip codes: 19131, 19143, 19104 and 19151, with a focus on 19139.

In which Life Science Cares Area of Focus is your organization’s work primarily? Economic Sustainability

 

Does the organization already receive support from or otherwise engage life science companies? If so, how? 

 

Morgan Lewis & Bockius: Provide sponsorship support for events, as well as in-kind support through corporate volunteer days and participation in our organizational drives                                                                      

Duane Morris: This company sponsored our annual fundraiser in 2017                                                                            EY: Provide in-kind support through corporate volunteer days                                                                   

Blackfynn: Provide in-kind support through corporate volunteer days

Please outline existing volunteer opportunities or programs & initiatives that harness human capital including any current virtual volunteer events:

Mentoring Program: In order to support lifelong self-sufficiency of ACHIEVEability participants, we are launching Professional Mentoring program to foster meaningful relationships between participants and professionals. Mentors will provide guidance and support in finding and securing employment, developing professionally, maintaining financial stability, and leading a fulfilling professional and personal life. The ideal mentor has the following qualities: dependability, emotional maturity, cultural sensitivity, self-sufficiency, diversity of professional experience, parenting experience, and access to a diverse network in Philadelphia. This opportunity has a minimum commitment of at least two hours/one meeting per month.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Virtual Tutoring Program: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Philadelphia School District schools are 100% online until at least November. In order to ensure vulnerable students are not left behind during at-home instruction, ACHIEVEability is launching a pilot virtual tutoring program for both child and adult students. This opportunity has a minimum time-commitment of 1 hour per week, now through June 2021.                                                                                                                                             

Block Beautification: In keeping with ACHIEVEability’s mission to improve the 60th Street Commercial Corridor and the surrounding neighborhoods, volunteer groups help clean-up blocks around 60th and Market Streets in Philadelphia. As these opportunities are outdoors, they are weather dependent. A typical block clean-up will last from 9:30am-2:00pm with a break for lunch. ACHIEVEability provides all supplies (bags, gloves, shovels, rakes, etc…). Min. Group Size: 10                                                                                                                                               

Skills-based Projects: This is a customized opportunity where leverage volunteerism to build and expand capacity for ACHIEVEability, by utilizing an organization, team, or individual’s strengths and expertise. Previous projects include: marketing and communication support (developing collateral, photography, website support, etc.), data and evaluation (trend data analysis, database modifications, etc.), program development (business strategy, customer feedback surveys, etc.), and process improvement (change management support).                                                                                                                                                                             Board Service: Yearly, ACHIEVEability recruits 2-4 prospective members to serve on our board of directors. Board members should be individuals interested in social/racial justice and enthusiastic about ACHIEVEability’s mission and work. As a board member, one would have a hand in shaping ACHIEVEability’s strategy and direction, including fundraising, programming, networking, and operations.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Like Life Science Cares, ACHIEVEability, its staff, programming, and volunteer activities are focused on reducing the impact of poverty on Philadelphians by providing them with resources and support to move towards long-term economic stability and overall wellbeing. ACHIEVEability partners with West Philadelphians experiencing poverty to connect them to basic needs, secure stable housing, and connect them to secondary education, and living-wage employment opportunities, improve their health, and provide them the tools to move towards economic stability and mobility. Our service area (primarily zip code 19139), right beyond the Life Sciences Center section of West Philadelphia, experiences racially concentrated areas of poverty (36.5%) and high unemployment (12.5%). Tackling poverty is more attainable with partners like LSC.           

 

Please outline proposed or potential future volunteer opportunities or programs & initiatives that harness human capital including any planned virtual volunteer events:  

Beyond the volunteer opportunities listed above, we also engage in donation drives:                                       

 

Thanksgiving Meal Drive: Each year, ACHIEVEability collects donations (monetary and in-kind) to provide West Philadelphia families with a complete Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings. Last year, ACHIEVEability supported 125 families through this drive, and we are aiming to increase that number this year. $40 will buy a full meal for a family of 4.                                                                                                                                                               

Holiday Gift Drive: In order to spread holiday cheer, ACHIEVEability collects wish lists from program children and parents in our programs, as well as the West Philadelphia community to distribute to our partners. Donors receive wish lists for the number of kids they wish to sponsor, and then purchase gifts up to $50 for each child. Due to COVID-19 changes, our 2020 Holiday Gift Drive will be run through Amazon Wish Lists.                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Backpacks and School Supplies: Through the help of our generous partners, every August ACHIEVEability is able to collect and distribute backpacks stuffed with school supplies to Philadelphia students. In 2020, we were able to distribute over 1,200 backpacks. This drive works to ensure that young Philadelphians are prepared to have the most successful school year possible.                                                                                                                                                                        Welcome Home Baskets: When families move into ACHIEVEability housing, they often lack the home, kitchen, and bathroom essentials necessary to turn their new house into a home. Donors help Family Self-Sufficiency families by purchasing household goods (cleaners, mops, brooms, utensils, toiletries, laundry supplies, cooking utensils and tools, etc.) to be given to families upon moving into ACHIEVEability housing.

GRANT REQUEST 

 

Please signify the type of support you are requesting from Life Science Cares: 

 

Programming (new or expanded)

Project Title: 

WorkSmart West Philly TechUp

Total Project Budget (if applicable):

 

$!96,450

Requested Amount [note that first year partners will generally be awarded $10k]:

$25,000

In which Life Science Cares Area of Focus is the requested project’s work? 
 

Economic Sustainability

Description of Need (What is the issue you plan to address? What are the demographics and number of people you plan to serve, if applicable?): 


For close to 40 years, ACHIEVEability, a nonprofit 501(c) (3) organization, has strived to permanently break the cycle of poverty for single parent, low-income, and formerly homeless families through higher education, affordable housing, supportive services, community and economic development, and accountability. Since 1981, we have provided a continuum of anti-poverty services for vulnerable individuals and families in West Philadelphia. We partner with individuals and families to address the inter‐related social challenges of poverty, high unemployment, and low educational attainment to attain economic stability and mobility. We achieve this through our core programs: Family Self-Sufficiency Program, ACHIEVEability Connects, and WorkSmart West Philly (WSWP). Each year, we serve over 2,800 people throughout the following zip codes: 19143, 19139, 19151 and 19131.

Prior to COVID-19, more than 1 in 3 residents (36.5%) in our primary zip code of 19139 lived below the poverty line (2014-2018 ACS). Our residents are primarily African American (89%) and our community contains areas of geographically and racially concentrated poverty. The COVID-19 pandemic has added even more of a burden on individuals and families already struggling to pay their bills and maintain stable housing. Furthermore prior to the pandemic, our local unemployment rate (12.5%) was already more than double that of Pennsylvania and more than 20% higher than the City’s rate (2014-2018 ACS). These rates have continued to increase over the last several months, and we have seen first-hand the vulnerability of low-wage, service sector workers and the accelerated demand for jobseekers with digital skills that can compete in a virtual workplace.                                                                                                                                                                  

Training and access to living-wage career paths are key in fostering economic mobility. Before COVID-19, the Philadelphia job market was demonstrating a move from industrial to professional jobs with an increased demand for post-secondary credentials and technical skills. This pivot made it more difficult for jobseekers in our service area with limited education, digital skills, and workforce experience to obtain higher wage employment. In our service area, only 15% of residents over age 25 have a bachelor’s degree, which is about half that of the City (29%). The digital divide in communities of color has become increasingly apparent in promoting inequity for jobseekers with low digital literacy and technical skills. Prior to COVID-19, WSWP was focused on increasing digital literacy through our free computer lab and skills-based trainings. Now, WSWP has increased its efforts to equip jobseekers with the digital literacy and access to technology at home along with technical skills training to help WSWP participants prepare for employment opportunities in the remote sector.   

Specific Activities (Please detail what activities you intend to undertake as a result of the grant. Include information about service delivery and timelines.): 

The focus of our proposal for the Life Sciences Care 2021 Grant Cycle is our TechUp pilot, which is an expansion of our WorkSmart West Philly (WSWP) program, which increases jobseekers’ employability through job readiness and soft skills training, job placement, and employment retention coaching. Created in 2015, WSWP has grown by 50% each year to meet our community’s demand. Over the last five years, we have served 1,098 jobseekers and connected 299 to employment. WSWP participant profile: 63% female; 37% male; Age range 18-68, average age 35; 100% below 200% federal poverty level. Subpopulations included: Opportunity youth (18-29) and seniors.                                                                             

 

The TechUp pilot is a collaboration between ACHIEVEability and Salesforce Administrator consultants designed to disrupt the technology sector and cycle of dead-end jobs for marginalized communities by training and placing Black, low-wage workers in living-wage, high-growth Salesforce careers. We created this pilot to meet the growing needs of this employment sector, while providing individuals with an opportunity to work safely from home during the current pandemic. TechUp will provide 15 participants with Salesforce administrator training in conjunction with soft skills and wraparound services to launch a new, living-wage career. TechUp will target low-income, un- and under-employed jobseekers with at least a high school diploma, including individuals with justice involvement and opportunity youth (18-29). This pilot will serve 15 individuals during its first cohort. Following the implementation of this innovative model, we hope to create a program model that can be scaled for other employment opportunities in the growing technology sector and serve more un- and under-employed individuals by connecting them to other employment opportunities. We see TechUp as an opportunity to create long-term impact at both the micro and macro levels, as well as create a more equitable workforce. 
                                                                                                           
TechUp Approach
1. Outreach: Staff promote TechUp to Philadelphians and recruits un- and underemployed participants via events, mail, email, and nonprofit partners. Staff also develop partnerships with employers to create employment pipelines and training opportunities.

2. Program Enrollment: Staff collect baseline demographic, employment, and financial data at entry, record it in our web-based ClientTrack database, and implement employment-related assessments with new participants (TABE & CareerScope).                                                 
3. ProgramServices:

- 14-week Training Program: Jobseekers will receive Salesforce training from certified Salesforce Administrators and soft skills training from ACHIEVEability’s Career and Educations coaches. Participants will meet for 30 hours a week and receive a stipend of $15/hour. Once the training is complete, jobseekers will be placed into an internship to receive on-the-job-training to make them more competitive in the job market. 

- Certification: TechUp will pay for participants to complete the Salesforce Administration exam up to 3 times and provide individualized test prep support.

- Technology Support: Participants will receive a laptop and hotspot to remove barriers to participation.            

- Wraparound Support: Many participants face barriers to fully engaging in employment. We will provide wraparound supports in the following areas: housing, childcare, transportation, mental health, interview attire, grooming, school fees, access to public benefits, etc.                                                                                                                     

 

4. Job Retention Coaching: We provide follow-up support to individuals for at least 6 months after job attainment in order to support retention and assist with troubleshooting barriers. In addition, we provide newly employed individuals with ongoing coaching support and financial education to help them make the most of their paychecks.                                                

 

TechUp Rationale

We developed TechUp based on the following opportunities offered by the business technology sector:
- Growing Employment Opportunities: Salesforce is one of the fastest growing software companies and certifications in this software platform make jobseekers more employable. According to a recent study by the International Data Corporation (IDC), there has been a significant increase in jobs that require Salesforce skills, and the Salesforce ecosystem is predicted to create 3.3 million new jobs and over $850 billion in revenues worldwide by 2022.
- Living-Wage Opportunity: Research shows that the average salary for a Salesforce administrator is $80,000 with the local salaries in Philadelphia ranging from $67,833 to $105,740. Unlike hourly jobs, these living-wage, salaried positions also offer full benefits packages including paid sick time and employer-provided health insurance.
- Long-Term Career Growth: Individuals with Salesforce certifications typically begin in administrative roles with opportunities for career advancement. TechUp provides an opportunity for individuals with low educational attainment and digital skills to access living-wage employment and move towards long-term financial stability and mobility. Funding from Life Science Cares will contribute to training stipends and laptops for participants.                                                                                                                                                                          

TechUp Timeline                                                                                                                              

January - February: Outreach and recruitment of jobseekers.
March - June: Execute TechUp with first cohort. Training 5 days a week for 14 weeks.                                         

July - August:  Evaluation, reporting, and programmatic enhancements. 6 months of job retention coaching for participants. September - October: Outreach and recruitment for second cohort.

Evaluation (What are the anticipated results? What methods will you use to measure your progress? What does success look like?): 

With local, pre-COVID-19 unemployment at 12.5%, living-wage career paths are key in fostering economic mobility. This Life Science Cares opportunity can accelerate our goals of:                                    

- Connecting jobseekers to sustainable, safe career paths                                                                                    

- Creating access to technology careers for Black workers                                                                                       

- Harnessing the power of cross-sector collaborations                                                                                            

- Establishing an innovative model that can be scaled to meet other growing technology employment opportunities                   

 

The WorkSmart West Philly (WSWP) team will capture TechUp participant data and program progress in our ClientTrack database. Staff collect this information during intake, at service delivery, upon exit, and at follow up. We record workshop participation, all points of service, and referrals. Our staff also collect qualitative data by interviewing participants about the program and its impact. Our leadership team reviews organizational year-to-date program outcomes, as well as longitudinal trends to evaluate program outcomes. Below are our proposed outcomes for our TechUp Pilot:
- 15 participants will participate in TechUp
- 10 participants will complete Salesforce training and receive certifications  
- 10 participants will participate in Salesforce on the job training  
- 8 participants will be connected to full-time, living-wage employment                                                                               

 

Additionally, while Salesforce training will open the door to living-wage career opportunities, it is intensive and time consuming. We believe it is essential to compensate participants for their time through a stipend to remove barriers to participation. As training will be offered in-kind, the participant stipend is the largest program cost. Once we are able to demonstrate this program’s success, we hope to attract additional funders including employers to support this cost and expand to at least two 15-particpant cohorts annually. Business technology employment demands extend beyond Salesforce, and this program can be used to meet employment needs of other technology sectors as well.

Does this project already have support from life science companies? If so, what is the nature of that support? 

TechUp is a new program and does not currently receive support from life science companies. However, beyond funding, there are additional opportunities for involvement:                                                                                              

- Professional mentoring for participants                                                                                                           

- Mock interview coaching                                                                                                                                

- Internship slots or on-the-job training opportunities
- Employment positions                                                                                    

By partnering with WSWP to break down employment barriers, we can work together to help historically marginalized communities access gainful employment opportunities and achieve long-term economic stability and success.

 

EFFECTIVENESS, COLLABORATION, INNOVATION

Is there any other information not captured elsewhere regarding your organization, project, program or initiatives that you believe will help the Life Science Cares team in evaluating your request? 

TechUp is a pilot that will be implemented as part of our current WorkSmart West Philly (WSWP) program model. WSWP currently operates with a team of four that includes: Director of Evaluation and Innovation, Workforce Development Coordinator, Career and Education Coach, and Self-Sufficiency Coach. In addition to this program team, WSWP receives annual support from skilled volunteers for the following events: resume boot camps, professional mentoring, and soft skills training workshops.

WSWP launched in 2015 with the goal to fill the gap in local workforce development programming. WSWP is currently funded by local and state governments, private foundations, and individual donations. As mentioned above, a grant from Life Sciences Cares will contribute to the following elements of TechUp:
- $32,450: Program staff costs
- $500: Northstar digital literacy assessments for program participants
- $19,050: 17 laptops with hotspots to loan to pilot participants
- $48,000: Stipends for the 15 pilot participants

What makes TechUp different?
Community-based Nonprofit: ACHIEVEability is a West Philadelphia community-based organization that partners with low-income West Philadelphians by connecting them to sustainable, living-wage employment opportunities. ACHIEVEability operates in Life Sciences Cares’ backyard. West Philadelphians experiencing poverty have complex barriers to obtaining employment and education, and we partner with them to remove these barriers and support their long-term growth and stability.

Growing Employment Opportunities and Careers: Informed by discussions with individuals in employment sectors and occupational outlook trends, TechUp was developed in response to the growing employment demand in the business technology sector. This sector is projected to continue grow over the next several years and provides living-wages and long-term career advancement opportunities. Many residents in our community work in low-wage, service-based jobs that do not present opportunities for career advancement and have a high-risk of being eliminated. Employment as a Salesforce Administrator presents opportunities for continued career growth and advancement allowing individuals to continue to improve their professional lives, as well as their socioeconomic status.

Leveraging stakeholder relationships: TechUp was developed in coordination with consultants that are well-versed in Salesforce Administration. These certified trainers will provide in-kind training support for this pilot program, as well as help WSWP staff connect participants to hands-on training opportunities. With support from these consultants, WSWP has been able to create a well-informed program model to meet growing employment opportunities in the business technology sector.

Addressing COVID-19 Impact: During the onset of COVID-19, we saw firsthand many residents lose their job in an instant and face barriers in obtaining new employment due to their education and skills levels. Many residents were or are currently employed in high-risk, low-reward jobs that do not provide opportunities for career growth. These unreliable, low-wage employment opportunities cause many residents to live paycheck to paycheck and one incident away from experiencing financial and housing insecurity. Through TechUp and WSWP, we will partner with jobseekers to connect them to new, sustainable employment opportunities that will help them weather the current pandemic.   
 

 

How does your organization or program differentiate from other organizations doing similar work? Are you executing or proposing to executive an innovation in program or service? 


We launched WorkSmart West Philly (WSWP) in 2015 to meet the gap in workforce development programming in West Philadelphia and have continued to expand programming to meet growing workforce needs and demands. As WSWP has continued to grow and serve more individuals, our program has been nimble and adaptive to addressing the complex needs of jobseekers by providing wraparound supportive services that not only support jobseekers in obtaining employment but also maintaining it. Simultaneously, we have continued to create and form partnerships with peer workforce development partners and employers to obtain insight into growing employment sectors.

TechUp is a unique opportunity for jobseekers to obtain industry and technology skills, as well as hands-on training experience. This training program will provide minority communities that face barriers to accessing high-wage job opportunities with the necessary skills and experience to access employment in the business technology sector. A certification in Salesforce Administration provides individuals with transferrable skills that can be used in a variety of settings, allowing individuals to continue to grow and advance their professional careers.

TechUp supports participants by providing them with a stipend to help them remain engaged in and complete this training program. This training will support jobseekers in obtaining the necessary skills and experience to make them more competitive in the job market. TechUp will also provide participants with computers and internet to help them complete this training program and internships. These two elements make TechUp unique in that the program proactively addresses the major barriers that are impacting low-income jobseekers especially during COVID-19. This pilot on a micro level will help West Philadelphians increase their annual income, stabilize their households, reduce their reliance on public benefits, and increase their participation in the local economy. On the larger scale, TechUp will also: reduce the unemployment rate of West Philadelphia, increase the annual income of West Philadelphians, decrease the inequity between West Philadelphia and other Philadelphian neighborhoods, and diversify the growing business technology sector.