Companies pledge to use Philadelphia Works job system


You might wonder why this is news: Four companies announce, with fanfare and the help of a public relations agency, that they are going to use the PA CareerLink free, government sponsored, job-posting web site to source candidates for job openings.

Why wouldn't they? Is there something wrong with free?  The answer may lie in a January, 2012 report by the Pew Charitable Trusts Philadelphia Research Initiative. In that report, authored by former Inquirer staffer Tom Ginsberg, employers complained that the city system, now known as Philadelphia Works, didn't. Only 12 percent of the city's employers used the system. Even top executives of local companies, who sat on the board of Philadelphia Works, the government-sponsored funnel for federal workforce dollars, didn't use the system they were directing.  Even though there were employers who said they were happy with the system and found it useful, human resource critics cited poor screening of job candidates and uncoordinated or unreliable service. The organization itself reached similar conclusions and embarked on an effort to improve. (You can read the executive summary here and the group's full report here.)

Fast forward 18 months to July 1, 2013. That's when the four major regional employers announced that they would be a part of the first ever "Jobs Compact," a pledge to source at least some of their jobs through CareerLinks. Among them was Mercy Health System. Mercy Health, which operates Nazareth Hospital in Northeast Philadelphia, Mercy Fitzgerald in Darby, Mercy Suburban in E. Norriton and Mercy Philadelphia Hospital, pledged to post all job openings on the PA Job Gateway website and to use PA CareerLink, an affiliated system, to hire all billers and certified nursing assistants.

"This process has shown that, regardless of industry or sector, businesses can work in partnership with government agencies to effectively and efficiently fill open jobs with Philadelphia residents,"  Elizabeth Riley-Wasserman, senior vice president of human resources at Mercy, said in the press release. Riley-Wasserman is also a board member of Philadelphia Works.

Here's my question: Does her statement, well-vetted since it was included in the press release, mean that people who live in Darby can't get jobs as billers or certified nursing aides in a Darby hospitals? And by the way, as of Wednesday morning, the news wasn't news on the health system's web site.

As part of the Compact, Mercy also pledged to provide online education resources for Mercy Health positions and I think, most importantly, work with Philadelphia Works on ways to improve the system. Problems would lead most employers to simply abandon the system, which is the situation the system was in when Ginsberg wrote his report in 2012.  But, if Riley-Wasserman's HR organization follows through and works to pinpoint and correct problems, including even technical glitches, that will be a win that will benefit employers and job seekers.

More on this later this week: