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Economic Inclusion at the University of Pennsylvania: A Commitment to Workforce Diversity
February 26, 2008, Volume 54, No. 23

The Office of the Executive Vice President has issued a booklet from which the following is adapted. Click here to download the booklet.

In October 2004, at the inauguration of President Amy Gutmann, the University of Pennsylvania launched The Penn Compact of which one tenant is engaging locally by providing opportunities for local individuals and businesses to participate in the economic activity of Philadelphia’s largest private employer. At the heart of this strategy is the Penn’s Economic Inclusion Program. Through this effort, Penn collaborates with local communities to:

•  Increase employment opportunities by improving job skills and workforce capacity

• Support small businesses through the procurement of locally provided products and services

• Ensure that a percentage of minority and women-owned construction vendors participate in campus development projects over $5 million.

The Economic Inclusion Plenary Committee exists to provide oversight and strategy to the University in formulating and managing its Economic Inclusion initiative. Three subcommittees of the committee meet to review and monitor progress made in construction, workforce development and procurement, and report to the full Plenary Committee on a quarterly basis.

The committee is co-chaired by Glenn Bryan, Community Relations, andGary Truhlar, Human Resources.

Buy West Philadelphia: A Commitment to Diverse and Local Businesses
The University leverages its buying power, knowledge assets, resources, and commitment to socially responsible purchasing to provide tangible business opportunities for local suppliers which have produced measurable benefits to the neighborhood, city and region.  Through its strategic purchasing practices, Purchasing Services, a department of Penn’s Business Services Division, reflects the University’s commitment to the development of meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships with local businesses. In all its activities, Purchasing Services strives to promote economic inclusion while meeting its mission to provide best-in-class buying methods and price supplier business relationships. These initiatives include:

Local Community Business Program: Under this Penn-designed program, the university purchases products and services from local community suppliers. Since the launch of this initiative in 1986, the total amount purchased from local community businesses has been approximately $758 million. During Fiscal Year 2007 Penn purchased approximately $86 million in products and services from local suppliers.

Supplier Diversity Program: Launched in 1994, this innovative approach to diversity supplier inclusion has resulted in significant business opportunities for diversity suppliers including participation in the Penn Marketplace, Penn’s private online eProcurement application used by Penn faculty and staff to order their product and service requirements. Penn utilizes this initiative to identify qualified diversity suppliers that offer products and services required by the University, and facilitate independent growth opportunities for these businesses and, in some cases, to forge partnerships with major national firms such as Fisher Scientific, IKON Office Solutions and Office Depot.

Diversity Supplier Development Program: A collaborative effort among Penn Purchasing Services, Drexel University Procurement Services, and the Pennsylvania Minority Business Enterprise Center, this program is designed to help bridge the gap between Penn’s procure-to-pay technology business requirements and supplier capabilities. Diversity suppliers are given support to develop the skills they need to electronically participate and maintain their content in Penn’s industry leading eProcurement program. An increasing number of major suppliers are working with the new Diversity Supplier Program and referring these businesses to Penn.

New Training, New Skills: Creating Capacity for Employment
Penn strives to provide a working environment that welcomes and celebrates diversity.  A varied workforce maximizes our talent pool, inspires creative thinking, and encourages a culture in which different views are appreciated and respected.  As the largest private employer in Philadelphia and the second largest in Pennsylvania, Penn is able to offer a multitude of job opportunities for local residents as well as minority and female workers. Since the inception of the Economic Inclusion program, Penn’s workforce has become increasingly diverse.  Statistics from 2007 illustrate that 61% of our regular staff is female, nearly 33% is of color, and 15% is from West/Southwest Philadelphia. 
Our hiring practices and partnerships encourage the recruitment, retention and development of a highly qualified, committed, and diverse workforce.  We have established strong affirmative action principles for our faculty and staff. We track the composition of our workforce and regularly identify under-represented populations for targeted recruitment efforts. We provide skills development opportunities for our diverse employee base. In addition, Penn has established several programs and partnerships to further our diversity goals, including:

Lucien E. Blackwell Apprenticeship Program at Penn: Debuting in September 2007 with an inaugural class of 50 West/Southwest Philadelphia residents, this program provides minorities and women in the labor and skilled trade professions with the training needed to enter into the trade unions in Philadelphia.  Upon reaching apprentice status, participants will be assigned by the unions to construction projects at the University of Pennsylvania. Citizens and Wachovia Banks are sponsoring this unique partnership in which the Building Trade Council of Philadelphia’s Diversity Apprentice Program provides the training and the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition conducts the recruitment of men and women into the program.

Unique Advantage: Unique Advantage, a women- and diversity-owned company, has been Penn’s exclusive provider of temporary staffing services since 2002. Among other things, we work closely with them to recruit local candidates for employment. Through our partnership with Unique Advantage, the number of West/Southwest Philadelphia employees at Penn and the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) has increased significantly within the past few years. 

KRA Corporation: Penn and Unique Advantage work with KRA Corporation to provide assistance to welfare recipients looking to move from welfare to work.  KRA provides intensive case management, work activities, job placement and retention, and supportive services to these individuals. 

Pipeline Development: UPHS instituted a “Pipeline Development Strategy” to provide current employees with the training and coaching to help them advance their careers in clinical areas where severe shortages exist. This program has been successful in providing opportunities for career development to residents of the West/Southwest Philadelphia community, with 14% of the enrollees residing locally.

High School Paid Employment Program: UPHS hosts a program that offers paid employment opportunities for high school students, providing both after-school and summer positions at UPHS entities. A very interactive experience that includes a mentoring relationship with staff members, this program seeks to assist the students with long-term life goals.  Of the 22 students currently participating, 91% of them are from the West/Southwest Philadelphia area.

Outreach Activities: Along with our partner agencies, Penn takes part in many activities during the course of the year aimed at reaching out to local residents as well as minorities and females.  These activities include: participation in career fairs sponsored by organizations such as the NAACP, Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations (Concilio), Philadelphia Community College, and the Mayor’s office; presentations at meetings sponsored by groups such as Penn’s African-American Resource Center; outreach to local religious leaders; and attendance at ceremonies such as Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds’ “Women Making a Difference” awards.

Building Up: Campus Construction and Community Development
As a landowner and developer in Philadelphia, Penn has undertaken extensive efforts to provide opportunities for local residents, minorities and women to participate in its major capital projects. Through its Economic Opportunity Plan, Penn has set aggressive targets for awarding 20-25% of contracts on major projects ($5 million and above) to minority and women-owned businesses, as well as targets for minority and female labor force participation on construction projects.

Penn and UPHS spend an average of $300 million annually on capital investments. Penn’s capital investment strategy is comprised of direct expenditures on campus and healthy system construction and renovations, as well as spending to leverage private development funds for University City. The estimated statewide economic impact from these expenditures is $768 million and 6,160 jobs.

Over the next year several new projects will be completed that will strengthen minority inclusion.One such project is the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. To date, minority-and women-owned firms have accounted for $58 million of construction expenditures on this project. In addition,  $2.5 million of other expenses have been allocated to businesses located in West Philadelphia.


Almanac - February 26, 2008, Volume 54, No. 23