Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS) is partnering with InnovatePGH, local universities, philanthropic organizations and others to launch the Innovation District Skills Alliance and provide career pathways for underserved populations in several Pittsburgh neighborhoods.
The alliance’s first cohort, which is expected in August, will seek to fill lab care technician positions in University of Pittsburgh research labs, said Becky Johnson, director of the JFCS Career Development Center. Extensive training will be provided to those in the cohort – and IDSA is looking for job seekers in the Hill District, Hazelwood and Homewood to support growth in Oakland, the seat of the Pittsburgh Innovation District.
“We’ve been around for a couple decades now, and our primary job is to work with job seekers around the county,” Johnson told the Chronicle. “But [IDSA] is not just about finding a job … it’s about ensuring you’re the best fit for the job.”
By training participants directly in the skills needed for a selected position and providing them with supportive services, JFCS believes program graduates will be connected to lucrative positions within local universities and companies.
Carnegie Mellon University also is involved in the early stages of the program. Future opportunities could include jobs as security guards and security dispatchers, officials from JFCS said.
“It’s more than job placement,” Johnson said. “It’s a really holistic approach to job support services and putting someone on the pathway to success.”
Applications are now open for the lab care technician cohort, and anyone can apply.
Each applicant will be screened for their interest in the position, ability to complete the programming and compatibility with the job credentials, JFCS officials said. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis.
The program is based on a model from the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, and volunteers have circulated fliers about it with community groups in Uptown and elsewhere, said Lindsay A. Powell, workforce strategies director for Innovate PGH.
But Powell stressed that any unemployed or underemployed Pittsburgher is eligible for the IDSA program.
“It really, truly is open to any resident; for us, it really is an open call,” she told the Chronicle. “We keep hearing, ‘We want diverse talent, we want local talent.’ Well, we have a solution.”
Those who are selected will be placed in a small cohort of learners where they will take courses and workshops five days a week to prepare them for a specific career at a local university. Each cohort will be trained exclusively for one position that will be clearly advertised and described in the application.
The University of Pittsburgh is participating as an employer partner for the first cohort of learners and said in a prepared statement it is “excited to partner in this program to leverage new talent.”
Participants are paid a stipend during their four-week training program and given additional support as needed, such as transportation stipends and child-care assistance.
“We are excited to reintroduce this exciting program back to Oakland to ensure that all residents have the opportunity to be a part of the growth of our Innovation District,” said Sean C. Luther, executive director of InnovatePGH.
For more information – or to find out how to apply for a cohort — visit pittsburgh-id.com/idsa. PJC
Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.