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Creating a path to jobs through collaboration

Linking jobs to people, even during a pandemic


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The nonprofit organization Partner4Work is a leader of the public workforce system in Allegheny County. The group partners with UPMC Health Plan to help people gain training that leads to a direct job path through the Pathways to Work program.

In Episode 3, Ellen talks to Earl Buford, chief executive officer, Partner4Work, where he manages public and private funds to meet the needs of current and future job seekers. Read part of the conversation, here, then listen to the entire podcast.

You’ve used the term “ecosystem of work”. Can you describe what that is?

In our organization, I coined the phrase ‘industry-led, worker-centered, community-focused.’ And the idea is you need all of these avenues to come together to do really effective workforce development/economic development. Otherwise we were all going to what we do and probably do it well, but we’re going to do it at a very small scale. These types of efforts, these type of major solutions need effective, scalable solutions. And so the ecosystem grows [through partnerships].

Who stands to benefit from this wonderful work and who are the great candidates for this?

As a public system, the minimum age is 14, especially for our youth program, our summer jobs program called Learn and Earn, which has about 2,000 young people. It varies by industry. Some industries are looking for young adults, 18 to 24, some prefer someone with a little more seasoned. So it’s our job and our system’s job to make sure we know exactly what those employers and those industry leaders want and start to do that matching.

Earl Buford is CEO of Partner4Work, leader of the public workforce system for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. Buford manages public and private funds to help meet the needs of businesses and job seekers. He previously served as president and CEO of Employ Milwaukee, where he was nationally recognized for the implementation and integration of a sector-based approach to workforce development. Buford also championed efforts to develop Midwest Urban Strategies, an unprecedented consortium of urban workforce boards united to build a supply-demand model to cultivate talent development and employer engagement.

Can you talk about the role that work plays in identity, and in the context of health?

To have that sense of responsibility for one as an individual contributor to society, but to, to develop and grow your own family tree, all those, this sense that comes from that pride that comes from that.

For our economic base to continue to grow, we have to have talent to build and craft and teach and all that. And we have to have a citizenry ready to go to work.

Listen to the rest of the conversation on the Good World, Better Health podcast.

Learn more about opportunities through Partner4Work.

If you’re interested in learning more about the employment programs available through Pathways to Work, a workforce development program by the UPMC Center for Social Impact, please visit here, email us at, or call us at 1-833-526-6271. (TTY: 711)


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