News Article

PYN News Article

Breakfast of WorkReady Champions

celebrates the region’s commitment to giving youth their first break

Category: WorkReady | Nov 1, 2009

On October 16, 2009, Mayor Michael Nutter congratulated more than 200 area employers and foundation leaders who supported summer internships for Philadelphia youth at the third annual Breakfast of WorkReady Champions held at The Rittenhouse Hotel. Despite the difficulties posed by the recession, employers and foundations directly supported internships for more than a thousand of the 8,500 young people who worked this past summer through WorkReady Philadelphia, the City’s system for youth workforce preparation.

“This is a testament to the commitment of Greater Philadelphia employers and members of the foundation community, who made these critical investments in our young people at a time when our national and local economies were under great stress,” the Mayor said. “Clearly, these individuals understand the power of work experience to promote career awareness and academic achievement, and are prepared to make long-term investments in the well-being of our City.”

While young interns are traditionally featured in these annual events, this year’s breakfast saw them playing prominent roles in the program, introducing each segment and speaking about how important their workplace experiences had been for them.

Khareif Williams, a senior at Simon Gratz High School and an intern at Citizens Bank, served as Master of Ceremonies for the program. After offering introductory remarks and recognizing his internship supervisor and mentor, Citizens CEO Dan Fitzpatrick, Williams introduced Joseph Frick – President and CEO of Independence Blue Cross; David L. Cohen, Executive Vice President of Comcast; and Rob Wonderling, newly minted

 President of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. Each employer leader spoke about the importance of workplace internships as invaluable opportunities for young people to master 21st century career skills, and also trumpeted the positive impacts that young people can have on workplaces and employees.

Arguably no Philadelphia business leader has done more to promote the cause of youth internships than Joseph Frick. As Chamber Chair from 2006-2008, Frick adopted WorkReady internships as his top priority. Under his leadership during that period, employer-paid internships surged from under 500 to more than 1,500. When Cohen took the gavel as Chamber chair in October 2008, he pledged to continue the emphasis on youth internships, and to promote broader issues of equitable education funding.

Anthony Bartolomeo, President and CEO of Pennoni Associates and employer co-chair of the Philadelphia Council for College and Career Success, welcomed attendees and extended to them the gratitude of Council members for their good work on behalf of young interns. Bartolomeo then introduced Mayor Nutter, who spoke generally about the importance of early work experience, but also told a personal story of his own first job.

When he was growing up in West Philadelphia, the Mayor told of being offered the opportunity to manage a water ice stand at a local store. He was determined, he said, to be the “best water ice operator I could be,” and credited that experience – and the trust placed in him by Mr. Sims, the store owner – with setting him on a path to career success.

As a segue to the awards ceremony, Khareif Williams introduced the 2009 WorkReady Philadelphia video documentary, that highlighted the WorkReady concluding celebration and showcased the work of young people produced during the course of their internships. View the WorkReady video.

The annual WorkReady Philadelphia awards – known as WorkReady First-Break Awards - were presented in five categories.

Aaron Williams, a senior at Simon Gratz High School and an intern at Pennoni Associates, introduced the awardees for Corporate Supporters of 10 or More Interns. In his remarks, Williams spoke appreciatively of the opportunities he was given at Pennoni, particularly the chance to rotate through different engineering departments and to learn about the specific attributes and applications of each. Williams also announced the winners of the WorkReady Champions award for Non-Profit Supporters of 10 or More Internships.

Iyana Ali-Green, a senior at Creative and Performing Arts High School who interned at Independence Blue Cross, introduced awardees for Companies and Foundations that Supported 25 or More Interns. In her remarks, Ali-Green described some memorable assignments during her internship, which included scanning fragile documents and historical photographs from the company’s archives and uploading them to the corporate website. This experience was particularly meaningful, she said, because of her interest in history, which she will consider pursuing in college. About the overall experience, she reflected: “The most important thing I got from my internship was the positive relationships I built with the employees and other interns that I still keep in touch with.”

Kyle Werder, a senior at Central High School who interned at Comcast, introduced awardees in the Employers and Foundations that Supported 50 or More Interns category. Werder spoke about the value of working as part of a high-performance team that was responsible for creating scripts, filming shows and editing video. It taught him, he said, that he was best suited to work behind the camera, rather than in front of it. “I was exposed to the fast and exciting world of all aspects of video production, from the busy paperwork to the beat of the control room to the editing suites. I was welcomed by my co-workers on day one as someone who was treated as an equal, even though I was the intern in the department. The atmosphere was reminiscent of family, and I was thankful for that,” Kyle told the audience.

Khareif Williams returned to present the final set of awards, given to Supporters Who Increased Commitment Over 2008. Williams expanded on his earlier remarks about his mentor, Citizens CEO Dan Fitzpatrick, speaking about how he was made to feel welcome and supported, even in important and high-visibility meetings, and how Fitzpatrick continued to stay in touch to be sure that things were going well for him.

Khareif Williams and Tony Bartolomeo concluded the program by thanking all of the guests and featured speakers, and by urging WorkReady intern supporters to continue and expand their commitments to the City’s young people.

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