The Forbes Funds Ecosystem Spotlight:  Transformative Nonprofit Work Happening in SWPA

by | May 12, 2023 | News | 0 comments

  Spotlight On… Partner 4 Work 💡

  Connecting The Dots 

Mayada Christiansen loves putting puzzles together. She always has. And always does. Literally, and figuratively. Indeed, Mayada’s favorite pastime is quite symbolic of the transformative work and big-picture impact she has made assembling the collage of pieces necessary for creating a thriving workforce development ecosystem for our region.  

As Senior Director of Youth Workforce Programs for Partner4Work, the workforce development board for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, Mayada leads the organization’s strategies for providing workforce development services and opportunities to young people ages 14-24 in Pittsburgh and throughout Allegheny County. Overseeing a portfolio of contracts with community-based providers and educational institutions, Mayada’s priorities are to strengthen the capacity of nonprofits to increase the quality and relevance of workforce development services provided to youth and young adults, build strategic connections across youth-serving agencies, and build systemic connections for young people’s economic mobility. 

In the context of effecting real systems change, that may sound like a lot of moving parts. But for Mayada, it sounds like music to her disruptive ears. 

“I like connecting the dots for young people and bridging the two worlds between workforce and education,” Christiansen said. “I’m mission-driven to create quality experiences for young people with a systems approach that fosters access to all opportunities and resources that are available but may be harder to find for the 18-24 segment of our community.” 

 Spotlight On…The Mission 💡 

To develop a thriving workforce, Partner4Work drives and delivers strategic investments, provides expertise, and creates opportunities for businesses, job seekers, agencies, and policymakers in Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh. 

 What is Partner4Work? 

Partner4Work is a 501c3 nonprofit and leading workforce development organization that connects funding, expertise, and opportunities to develop a thriving workforce in the Pittsburgh region. They operationalize their mission by: 

  • Leading the workforce development system for Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh; 
  • Building employers’ capacity to find, retain, and develop talent; 
  • Connecting adults and young job seekers with career opportunities; 
  • Proactively positioning community organizations for success through funding, information, and professional connections; 
  • Interpreting and sharing labor-market information, data, trends, and practices to advance data-informed strategies and policy development; 
  • Convening cross-system partners, including employers, labor unions, job seekers, educators, agencies, and policymakers, to learn, collaborate, and strategize solutions that strengthen the local workforce. 

Partner4Work is guided by the knowledge, expertise, and leadership of its diverse board of directors, which is jointly appointed by the Allegheny County Executive and the Mayor of Pittsburgh. The board represents leadership among employers, educators, labor unions, policy makers, and community-based organizations. As an organization that holds the unique position of connector, convener, and bridge builder, Partner4Work values collaboration, inclusion, and bold thinking. 

Bold, Disruptive Thinking

“Being disruptive starts with thinking differently, challenging accepted knowledge, and making big ideas actionable,” she said. “It’s about asking tough questions, like ‘What does equitable really education look like?’ but going even further to ask ourselves what does it really mean to not only give kids what they may uniquely need to access the same opportunities as everyone else, but figuring out how to kick the fence down and remove the barriers altogether. That is what education justice truly looks like.” 

A background in youth development and education afforded Mayada a front-row perspective on education injustice and ignited her flame for systems change.  

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Pittsburgh, a Master’s Degree in Education from Carlow University, as well as a PA Level I Teaching Certification for Grades 4-8 Science.  

As a member of the GPNP Advisory Committee, Mayada brings 18+ years of experience in the non-profit sector in leadership roles related to youth development, education and program design. Some of her past roles included informal museum education, managing an after-school program and summer camp, developing programs focused on community and family engagement, and classroom teaching. 

It was in her teaching capacity, having matriculated to the classroom through Propel Charter Schools’Pittsburgh Urban Teaching Core program, that Mayada experienced the challenge of showing students the “other side of the coin,” as it related workforce education. 

“The students were clearly thinking, ‘Why am Ilearning this?’ and as a teacher, I wasn’t always able to connect the dots between my classroom content and how it’s used out there right now in the workforce in a tangible way, and didn’t have the resources to do it,” she said. “Throughout my career, I’ve been moved to impact education in a deeper way and understand things at a systems level to operationalize justice. So, I decided to put my money where my mouth was. And that brought me to Partner4Work.” 

Spotlight On…The Vision 💡 

Partner4Work envisions a thriving and prosperous community, where all residents have access to expansive career opportunities and all businesses have access to a talented workforce. 

  Partner 4 Work Services 

  Partner4Work effects systems change through vertical and horizontal integration of service delivery. Ultimately, Partner4Work realizes its vision by serving the employers and job seekers of the Pittsburgh area across multiple industries and sectors, delivering collaborative and reverberating impact on the region’s fortunes in several key areas: 

  • Partner4Work provides adult and young job seekers with opportunities for meaningful employment. Through career training and exploration programs, employment assistance, job search help, and a robust summer jobs program, Partner4Work opens the door to opportunity for the region’s job seekers. The numbers tell the story. Partner4Work connects more than 1,700 adults and more than 2,000 young adults to job opportunities each year. 
  • Partner4Work also offers a wide variety of cost-free services that help regional businesses attract and retain the talent they need to succeed and grow.From customized labor market data, finding and recruiting diverse talent, improving job quality, and finding access to capital, Partner4Work delivers customized employment solutions for any size or type of business. 
  •  Partner4Work proudly partners with more than 80 organizations in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to impact and provide opportunities for job seekers and businesses alike. They partner with community-based organizations, businesses, training providers and educators, and economic development agencies to collectively bridge the gap between people looking for work and businesses in need of talent. 
  • Partner4Work is a productive partner at the regional and state level. Regionally, Partner4Work collaborates with other workforce boards in the southwest corner of PA to address issues that impact our entire region. At the state level, their staff engages in policy analysis and advocacy on behalf of local employers, service providers and job seekers.  

  Workforce development became a major key for our Keystone State as Governor Shapiro signed an Executive Order in January, creating the new Office of Transformation and Opportunity to spur economic growth, create jobs, and foster innovation in Pennsylvania. 

 “I’ve heard from business and labor leaders across the Commonwealth – government needs to work more quickly and figure out a way to get to yes. Today, we are making it clear that Pennsylvania is open for business, and that we are going to be leaders in economic growth, job creation, and innovation,” said Governor Josh Shapiro. “My Administration will connect our business, our workforce, our world-class universities and research institutions, and the public sector to spur economic development, particularly in communities that have too often been left behind. By helping businesses that are already here, encouraging new ones to move to Pennsylvania, and investing in our workforce, we can create real opportunity and build an economy that works for everyone.” 

  Connecting The Dots For The Future 

  Within her oversight of youth workforce programs at Partner4Work, the future looks bright from Mayada’s perspective, in creating such real opportunities and pathways to employment for the future disrupters of tomorrow… like Mayada.

 “Partner4Work’s industry partners and our labor market data provide insight into where job opportunities exist now and potentially into the future. It’s our responsibility to leverage our resources to build on-ramps to those opportunities for young people, connecting them with internships, job shadowing , and work-based learning experiences to give them a taste for what it’s like, and help them make informed decisions on what their next steps are,” she concluded. “Our job as a system is to help employers grow their staffing pipelines and their business to new heights by tapping into the value, creativity, and brilliance of young people in low-income areas. Too often young people are overlooked when they don’t quite fit the traditional mold within an industry, but they are focused and ready to break those molds.” 

– Mayada Christiansen | Partner4Work

And when that day comes, you might find her prepared with a high-five for a youngster, knowing the puzzle is complete! 

  

  

  

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