By: Kyle O’Hearn, HR Professional & PSHRM Thought Leader
Kena Sears-Brown, MBA, VP, Workforce Readiness, Philly SHRM
Philadelphia is a tale of two cities. First is a booming city with top-notch industry,
education and research, and diverse neighborhoods. This Philadelphia extends her hand and
creates access to opportunity for middle-to-upper class professionals who find jobs that create
family stability. The other tale paints a different, disturbing picture – a 26% poverty rate and an
unemployment rate of almost 2% above the national rate. At the same time, CEOs consistently
rank building talent or finding the right people with the right skill sets as one of their highest
priorities for future growth. Who should be involved in the conversation and action plan to
address these critical gaps in the workforce? Is it HR? Business? Academia? The City of
Philadelphia? All of the above?
Philly SHRM is responding to some of these questions and more by engaging in the
workforce readiness discussion by serving as a conduit for business, educational institutions,
and workforce organizations in the region to discuss and implement strategies to close
workforce skills gaps, improve talent acquisition and retention, and provide professionals
access to middle-skills jobs that create sustainable, livable wages. Workforce readiness has and
continues to be the organization’s primary platform. President of Philly SHRM, Jameel Rush,
said recently in an interview, “We will be focusing on strengthening the talent pool in the
Philadelphia area. We have launched a Workforce Readiness committee and begun establishing
strategic partnerships with the City of Philadelphia, Office of Workforce Development,
academia, business and industry, and others within the ecosystem to create new pipelines of
talent to our member’s organizations and opportunities for those in our community.” Over the
last two years, the workforce readiness committee has engaged with various workforce
partners to offer program and events that foster rich conversations and strategic goals.
1. October 2017: Part One: Workforce Readiness Professional Development event: How to
identify, build, and sustain successful partnerships to close the talent gap.
2. December 2017: SHRM HR professionals and workforce readiness VPs participated in a
workforce focus group pertaining to the Fueling Philadelphia’s Talent Pipeline initiative
via the City of Philadelphia.
3. March 2018: Philly SHRM symposium, Workforce Development Panel: Part Two – The
Philadelphia Pipeline: Best practices on how to develop and prepare talent to minimize
the talent gap, identify and review education development programs and initiatives in
the immediate Philadelphia and local region, and learn about the “Philadelphia Pipeline”
and ways it can benefit your organization to build the talent pipeline.
4. March 2019: Philly SHRM Symposium: Innovate Your Workforce Strategy: A
Nontraditional Approach to Sourcing & Upskilling Talent
There is much work to do to ensure that all Philadelphians have access to long-term
employment and that HR and business get the talent needed to remain competitive. Do you
have an innovative idea on how to address the underlying barriers that prevent Philadelphians
from accessing meaningful career opportunities? Are you able to help prepare Philadelphians
with skills employers need for a world-class workforce? Are you ready to become a part of a
movement that builds a workforce system that is more coordinated, innovative, and effective?
If this interests you, please reach out to Philly SHRM Thought Leaders via email:
About the Authors:
Kena R. Sears, MBA is Director of Continuing Professional Education and Workforce Initiatives at Drexel
University, Goodwin College of Professional Studies. Kena earned her Bachelor’s degree in
Communications and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Penn State University. She
serves on the Philadelphia Society of Human Resource Management board (Philly SHRM) as VP of
Workforce Readiness. Kena is an avid lifelong learner who is passionate about education and workforce
solutions for underserved populations.
Kyle J. O’Hearn is active with Philly SHRM serving as both a Thought Leader content provider as well as a
member of the Thought Leadership Committee. Additionally, he has over 9 consecutive years of HR
experience working in the non-profit and for-profit business worlds. He currently has a Bachelors Degree
from Temple and is working on his Masters in HR from Temple. Kyle enjoys innovation and forwarding thinking ideas, Philadelphia sports, the arts, and culture.