Philadelphia job system fizzled out for cola bottler. Is it better now?


When Tracee Hunt, now chief human resources officer at Bancroft Neurohealth in Haddonfield, headed human resources at Philadelphia Coca-Cola Botting Co., she tried to find employees by tapping into the Pa CareerLink system run, in Philadelphia, by the Philadelphia Workforce Development Board. Thumbs down.  "I wasn't getting the most qualified applicants for our positions," she said.

How ironic was that? Hunt was on the board of the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board, a sister organization that shared many responsibilities with the PWDC. If it wasn't going to work for the board members, who was it going to work for? 

About a year ago, the two organizations merged, responding to a blistering report from Pew Charitable Trusts as well as to internal studies showing a system that wasn't meeting the needs of area employers and therefore wasn't meeting the needs of the many jobless who were so desperately seeking work. Hunt is on the board of the merged organization, Philadelphia Works.

Earlier this month, Hunt signed, on behalf of Bancroft, a pledge to use Philadelphia Works and Pa CareerLinks to help source "direct care professionals" who work with Bancroft's clients, folks with intellectual and developmental challenges, or people with brain injuries. 

"I'm extremely optimistic," she said, noting that she has seen commitment from Philadelphia Works to meeting employer needs.

Bancroft definitely has employer needs. Half of its 2,200 employees are "direct care professionals," and among them, turnover is extremely high -- 25 to 27 percent a year. That means that Bancroft has to fill 400 positions a year. The jobs pay a minimum of $10.65 an hour, and many workers, Hunt said, tend to come from Philadelphia, despite the bridge toll cost of commuting to Jersey.

"We cast a very wide net," said Hunt. "It's important that we recruit from the tri-state area."

She said that Philadelphia Works has committed to directing potential candidates toward Bancroft's online application process. "This is Bancroft's first time using it," she said. "We just started."

What will Philadelphia Works do for Bancroft? I asked Susan Buehler, the spokeswoman for the organization. She said that Philadelphia Works will both recruit and vet candidates, according to job specs. Getting employers on board is important, she said.  "We have more applicants than we do jobs," she said. "We need the employers to bring us the jobs. Bring us the jobs and we'll get them filled."

Buehler said that what is different is that there are employer engagement teams that work with employers to understand their needs and to better help them find the right candidates.

Whether the system is different or improved from the past will be a question for another time. Click here to read my other blog post on this topic.