Manufacturing jobs in Philadelphia once accounted for 45 percent of the city’s workforce. Today, that number is closer to 5 percent, leaving thousands without jobs – and without the level of education required to find new ones.

philadelphia-tech-learningSixty-five percent of job seekers in the city’s employment system read at only a fourth- to sixth- grade level, and 80 percent can only do math at a sixth-grade level.

The level many employers expect an applicant to have? At least tenth grade, said Judith Renyi, executive director of the Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission on Literacy.

“That’s a problem, in its starkest, starkest sense,” Renyi said. “A lot of these people are displaced workers. Fifteen to 20 years ago, they were just fine, but then their jobs disappeared.”

Philadelphia is transforming its old adult literacy program – a hands-off approach that could only offer referrals – into a modern, technology-driven system of adult learning campuses, powered by Instructure’s learning management system Canvas.

It’s a big shift, Renyi said, but, with a 25 percent poverty rate, the city is addressing a big problem.

Philadelphians seeking adult learning programs in past years could call the commission and it would suggest some classes near their location. “Then we would hang up the phone,” Renyi said. “There might not even be a place for them at those classes. The demand was enormous, and the supply was very small. So they are just put on a waiting list.”

With the city’s new Philadelphia Literacy and Adult Career Education (myPLACE) program, adults are immediately given an appointment at one of three campuses around the city.

Then they are quickly enrolled in their first introductory course, either at one of the campuses or online.