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JFCS and InnovatePGH Completes the First Successful IDSA Cohort


On September 2, six individuals became the first graduates of our pilot cohort of the Innovation District Skills Alliance (IDSA), a new career development initiative created by InnovatePGH, JFCS, local universities, and philanthropic partners. The program was held from August 15th through September 2nd with plans for additional cohorts at the end of 2022 and early 2023!

What is IDSA?

IDSA was created to provide job training and skill development for high-barrier residents in and around the Pittsburgh Innovation District. In partnership with local universities and businesses, the goal is to create career pathways for people from neighborhoods like Homewood, Hazelwood, and the Hill District to support inclusive growth in the area.

The applicants who were accepted for the initial cohort were each given $600 in stipends, as well as Chromebooks and additional incentives to help support their needs and offset personal or family expenses during the program period. The program consisted of a three-week intensive training (both hybrid and in-person), which included topics such as career strategies, resume building and interviewing, networking, personal branding and leadership, communication and feedback, identifying support networks, fitness training, and financial and digital literacy. Participants also used mock interviews and role playing to practice navigating the interview process and challenges that could arise within the workplace.

Sessions were led by JFCS Career Development Center staff and professional external facilitators, including Arcade Comedy Theater, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh, the Financial Empowerment Center, Computer Reach, TriZen in Philadelphia and others. Participants also received daily “homework” assignments and milestone tasks (i.e. creating a list of references, practicing the STAR interview method, developing a map of support networks in their personal community) throughout the cohort to build upon the knowledge and topics covered in the daily sessions and put them into practice in their everyday lives.

The Results!

“I appreciated the direct assistance because it helped me get to the session each day and not feel strained monetarily.” –a participant’s testimony

Graduates of the program are connected directly with entry-level positions and can earn family-sustaining wages, benefits, and union opportunities. This program is transformative for participants by making it possible for them to provide for their families while staying in their neighborhood. 

In addition to necessary skills and techniques, the cohort participants also gain a support network to help them through the training cohort, as well as the job application and onboarding processes. Additionally, participants are paired with JFCS Career Development Center career counselors for ongoing support once the program ends, and as they continue to develop their individual career pathways. 

For this cohort, the participants trained for and were matched with Animal Care Technician positions at the University of Pittsburgh. We are so proud to announce that five of our program graduates have been offered jobs as Animal Care Technicians or adjacent positions with the University of Pittsburgh!

If you are interested in learning more about IDSA’s future cohorts and how to participate, please check back regularly at https://www.pittsburgh-id.com/idsa for future announcements.