Partners in the News: Dave Wright

As featured in SkillUp Washington’s latest newsletter.

Dave Writght smiling with bear, sitting outsideDave Wright, Workforce Development Manager for the City of Seattle has watched the city and its partners tackle some the most pressing economic issues of our time. From workforce development to the rising of the minimum wage, the City of Seattle has approached each issue through a racial and social equity lens, which has allowed them to meet many of these challenges head-on.

Similarly, the City of Philadelphia has made progressive strides in transforming workforce development and is beginning to incorporate economic inclusion and opportunity in approaching internal hiring and advancement practices.

With many aligned goals and aspirations, the City of Seattle and the City of Philadelphia jumped at the opportunity to compare notes, exchange ideas and best practices.

In our interview with Dave, we dive into the lessons learned during Philadelphia’s two-day visit with the City of Seattle.

Tell us about the City of Seattle’s collaboration with the City of Philadelphia, how did this come about?

The City of Seattle Department of Human Resources (SDHR) was contacted by SkillUp Washington to explore how Seattle and Philadelphia might connect and collaborate around workforce development strategies. SkillUp felt that Philadelphia and Seattle shared many similarities (and challenges) in this work and believed that we could benefit from meeting and sharing ideas.

A conversation with Catherine Wolfgang, Philadelphia’s Chief Service Officer of the Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service, showed that our two cities were aligned in several of our workforce development goals. Specifically, both cities are currenly exploring ways to create employment opportunities for temporary workers. Additionally—the Seattle area has unique apprenticeship models that could be shared with Philadelphia.

We coordinated a two-day visit, which included tours and information sharing with Seattle City Light, Seattle Office of Labor Standards, Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle Office of Economic Development, Seattle Department of Human Resources, the Priority Hire Program housed in Seattle Finance and Administrative Services Department, as well as the Conservation Corps program housed in the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department. The Philadelphia team also had an opportunity to tour several regional apprenticeship programs.

Man in hardhat holds wires standing next to lots of open red boxes on the wall.What are the benefits of collaborating with other cities – in this case the City of Philadelphia?

Cities can save both time and money by sharing strategies that have been successful in addressing shared challenges. It is also beneficial to discuss strategies that have not worked, and the reasons why. Secondly, establishing and strengthening cross-city relationships brings greater diversity of thought when thinking through complex issues. It’s nice to have a city thought-partner!

Maryum Darby-Madison, Philadelphia’s Director of Youth Workforce and Development, said “the visit offered real-time learning, networking and sharing practices that are specific to city governments…my understanding of apprenticeships was enhanced by this experience and I look forward to more cross-site visits like this in the future.”

Workforce equity is when the workforce is inclusive of people of color and other marginalized or under-represented groups at a rate representative of the greater Seattle area at all levels of City unemployment; where institutional and structural barriers impacting employee attraction, selection, participation and retention have been eliminated, enabling opportunity for employment success and career growth.

What are some similarities and differences between our programs and approaches?

Seattle and Philadelphia are currently focusing their workforce development efforts on supporting career pathways for entry-level and temporary workers. Both cities are utilizing a cross-departmental approach to understanding and sup-porting these pathways. As a result, Seattle and Philadelphia are examining and promoting programs that support these efforts in similar ways (Example: Power Corps PHL and Seattle Conservation Corps).

Some differences in how our cities approach workforce development may be a result of our different sizes, how we are structured, and where workforce development professionals are located within the organization. For example, the City of Philadelphia operates both as a city and county and employs approximately 25,000 employees (compared to approximately 12,000 at the City of Seattle)—giving Philadelphia employees more diversity in their career pathways and opportunities.

Another noted difference was the level of human resources department engagement in workforce development activities. In Philadelphia, human resources serve more as a processing and administrative body. In Seattle, workforce development professionals are embedded within human resources – specifically as part of a division focused on workforce equity.

Three smiling people in hard hands working on wiring.

What are the next steps between the two cities?

In the short term, we are going to continue to share some of our best practices and connect key stakeholders from our two cities. Philadelphia representatives mentioned following up with a few of our offices to learn more about Seattle’s minimum wage initiative, secure scheduling, fair chance employment, and sick and safe leave ordinances. In the long term, as Seattle begins to develop our own employment pathways strategies, the City of Philadelphia team can offer additional guidance and insight.


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