Partner4Work is a connector — it guides, directs and strategizes over workforce development in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.
“Because our money goes out the door through so many organizations, usually you hear about the program, not about us,” says CEO Stefani Pashman.
Frequently, people excitedly tell her staff about a program, which was actually funded by Partner4Work.
If someone has heard about the organization, it’s probably by the name it was established under in 1999, Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board. Charged with leading the public workforce system for the city and county, Three Rivers WIB had a good view of the labor market, but it wasn’t connected to the programming.
Over time, Three Rivers WIB broadened its portfolio. It became an intermediary that oversaw and coordinated the region’s workforce development, while also incubating new ideas and programs like Pittsburgh Works and Learn and Earn.
“We’re always looking to make sure that not only are we on top of the trends, like we always were, but also that we’re doing something to address them,” Pashman says.
When the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 modernized the public workforce system, it was time for a change.
“It triggered a series of activities for us to say, ‘OK, if we have to change our name anyway, how do we want the marketplace to see us?’” she says.
The organization needed a name that reflects what it does today — it brings together partners, partners who then take action to build a talent pipeline.
Partner4Work also constantly seeks to align training and programming with what employers need, using its connections and knowledge. For example, 40 percent of the youth served through its programs have a high school diploma, but aren’t reading and writing at an eighth-grade level. They cannot read or do math at a level companies need; remediation is necessary.
When Pashman started at Partner4Work, she was told the system was confusing. Many organizations are involved with workforce development. People didn’t know where to go.
About three years ago, Partner4Work inventoried and identified 80 organizations in the arena. Of those, only 20 percent listed workforce development as the primary mission.
Today, Pittsburgh Works helps connect those 80 organizations and feeds private organizations and job seekers into Partner4Work’s public system for training, funding, employer connections, etc.
“We have a variety of things we deploy within this network, so we can have some common understanding of what’s a best practice, how we make sure it’s being consistent and how we also reduce the noise for the employers,” Pashman says. “They now have more of a place to go. There’s a single voice, rather than 80 organizations and a lot of fragmentation.”
When creating partnerships like Pittsburgh Works, she’s learned that when money is on the table, people pay more attention. Also, hard data adds to the impact.