Democratic mayoral nominee Jim Kenney wants to reduce the city's high rate of poverty by ensuring that Philadelphia's community college and adult learning institutions better prepare students for the job markets.
"I think in order to strengthen Philadelphia both socially and economically, we have to have a workforce that is trained and making a living wage in the 21st century," Kenney said during the Peirce College Thomas May Peirce Leadership Award breakfast Tuesday, where he was the award recipient. "While that obviously requires investing more in our public schools ... we need to invest in our adult learners."
Kenney, who faces Republican Melissa Murray Bailey in the November general election, highlighted two policy proposals regarding job training during the event, attended by more than 100 people from the business, higher education, and public sectors.
If he is elected mayor, Kenney said, he will create a task force to identify the skills, certifications, and training sought by Philadelphia businesses. He would then give the report to postsecondary institutions such as Peirce College and Philadelphia Community College so they can appropriately tailor their curricula.
"We really need to look at what we are doing, how we are doing it, and looking forward to allowing people to meet their potential," he said.
Kenney also wants to increase the number of summer internships and apprenticeships offered by businesses and nonprofits in the city from 10,000 to 16,000.
The former city councilman said that people with internship experience are more likely to get a job interview and employment than those without such experience. He wants to meet his goal of 16,000 summer jobs by the end of his first term.
How will he do it?
"By force of personality," Kenney said, laughing. He added: "I think we have to look at who does what and who we can lean on in a good way to do more."
Kenney believes that adding jobs and training people for the right jobs will reduce the poverty level in Philadelphia.
"The thing that bothers me most about Philadelphia at the moment is we have a 26 percent poverty rate," he said. "It's embarrassing."
He wants to increase the number of industrial jobs, which can pay between $35 and $40 per hour. Kenney called them "living-wage jobs."
Peirce College, which specializes in providing an education to working adults, gave its annual award to Kenney because of the former city councilman's work in helping create an "inclusive and economically viable community" and being a champion of equality.
"Your deep commitment to workforce development and your vigorous embrace of the role education plays as a driver in creating a more prosperous Philadelphia is inspiring," Barbara A. Prutzman, Peirce College Board of Trustees chair, said as she gave Kenney the award.