We Mean Business

Changing today's education, for tomorrow's workforce.
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How We Are Different.

Career academies offer unique opportunities including:

  • Industry-driven instruction, workplace exposure and post-secondary educational preparation.
  • Customized learning to support students’ interests, abilities and skills.
  • A safe, structured environment with a network of adults focused on student achievement.

Philadelphia Academies, Inc. (PAI) is a nonprofit youth development organization working to change life outcomes for kids using first-of-its-kind career academies. The mission of Philadelphia Academies, Inc. is to expand life and economic options for Philadelphia public school students through career-focused programming that prepares young people for employment and post-secondary education.

PAI is the only local youth development nonprofit supporting the career academy model in Philadelphia high schools. The model is evidence-based. According to national researchers, it’s been proven to increase graduation rates and lead to higher earned incomes for program graduates.

preparing students for success

Our career-connected educational model provides a viable way for Philadelphia’s youth to "get in the game," be motivated to learn, and connect to successful futures. Many more students need our help—by 2015, we will expand our reach from under 5% to nearly 22% of the student population.

Career Academies = Labor Market Opportunities for Young People

The Challenge

Philadelphia faces some tough labor market realities.

The Results Are In...

It's important for us to constantly assess results. Our baseline impact to date is:

Corporate Funders.
Partners & Volunteers.
Hours Professional Development
For 60 Teachers, Principals &
School Leadership.
Hours Donated By Corporate,
Higher Education & Community Citizens
(2012-2013 School Year).

Our Motivator...Results!

School District of Philadelphia Pennsylvania Schools Wall-to-Wall PAI Career Academy Schools
* As defined by the PA Department of Education ** Senior Class cohort graduation rates

The power of career academies can really improve schools and student success. We have to scale it up."

David Kipphut
Deputy, Career and Technical Education
School District of Philadelphia

In the academies, we learned life lessons…you learn things that you can actually use when you graduate—in the real world."

Shinelle Superville
2007 Graduate
Kensington High School
Business & Technology Academy

There is no better way to influence our future workforce than to be involved with Philadelphia Academies."

Mary Krick
Vice President, Human Resources
Change for the Good or Better

To achieve this change...

Our work with Students:

  • Organize and deliver 21st century skills such as networking, workplace literacy, problem solving, and team collaboration.
  • Prime young people to meet workplace expectations through guest instruction, industry site visits, industry-driven curriculum, and volunteer events to practice interview and networking skills.
  • Prepare young people for post-secondary success by introducing them to local college options, financial aid services, and mentors.

Our work with Professional Organizations:

  • Offer group trainings for teachers, principals, and school leadership teams.
  • Deliver customized supports to help schools practice the academy model with fidelity to National Standards of Practice.
  • Create classroom connections to business and higher education partners.
  • Offer technical assistance to help schools transform into Wall-to-Wall academies where every student in a high school is enrolled in an academy. This requires structural changes to student and teacher schedules, built-in common planning time for teaching teams, and academy industry themes that are clearly promoted to reflect small learning communities.

Digital On-Ramps

Digital On-Ramps provides a digital framework for delivering comprehensive education and workforce training to youth and adults. Because we are dedicated to improving instruction and preparation for career and college success, Philadelphia Academies, Inc. is testing this online resource at four partner schools through a 21st century skill badging effort.

City Hall

Raise Institute

RAISE is an Innovators Institute, designed as a 15-month cohort fellowship for teacher leaders. Our goal is to provide tools to foster an environment that supports youth learning and success, and prepares youth for healthy transitions into the real world.



Philadelphia Academies, Inc. is the Philadelphia PENCIL affiliate that matches business volunteers with public school principals based on backgrounds, interests, and goals. Partners are then empowered and supported to develop solutions that transform their schools.


Charles Bowser

The Charles Bowser Institute for Business Partnerships, named after the career academy model’s founder, is the home base of our volunteer training. We offer webinars and on-site training to meet volunteer interests and schedules.

Higher Expectations

Philadelphia Academies, Inc. helps schools implement the career academy model with fidelity (Read more). We focus on five core model standards that have been used extensively throughout the country, and have been proven to yield positive student achievements in large high schools serving diverse populations (Read more).

Defined Mission and Goals
Professional Development
Employer, Higher Education and Community Involvement
Student Assessment

Defined Mission and Goals

Academies focus explicitly on college and careers. They also raise student aspirations and motivation in high school, and build close relationships among teachers and fellow students.


Academies have a well-defined structure within the high school. Cohort scheduling allows for students to take a series of classes together each year and includes cross-grade articulation. The Academy maintains personalization through limited size, teacher teaming and a supportive atmosphere. Career Academies have a dedicated physical space in the building.

Professional Development

Academies offer ongoing training, leadership and support for new roles in the classroom.

Employer, Higher Education and Community Involvement

Career themes fit the local economy. Employers, higher education representatives, and the community help guide curriculum and provide guest instruction, field trips, internships, college tours and teacher's externships.

Student Assessment

Ongoing improvements in student performance are central. Multiple academic measures are used, including technical learning. These measures show whether and how much the Academy improves student performance.

Wider Network

Many of our young people need help building a positive social adult network. Thanks to our 900 business, higher education and community volunteers, our young people have grown their own personal networks to make their dreams a reality.

Site Tours
Guest Speaker
Pencil Coach
Career Day
Signature Events
Project-Based Activities

Site Tours

Industry Site Tours give students a sense of the workplace, and a better understanding of the typical work day. We organize student groups who will benefit most by visiting each organization.

Guest Speaker

Students appreciate when guest speakers bring real-world challenges and issues to the classroom. We schedule our guests to co-present with a teacher or as part of a similar group of industry representatives for a rewarding experience for all.

Pencil Coach

Since 1995, PENCIL has built and supported customized, long-term relationships between business volunteers and public school principals to inspire innovation and improve student achievement. Each partner must attend at least three planning meetings during the year and have the ability to commit to a long-term project.

Career Day

Career days allow students to learn about many industries and possible career paths. Students are able to talk with various participants, learn more about possible career paths, and better understand the kinds of higher education degrees and certifications needed to reach their career goals.

Signature Events

Our signature events are designed to prepare young people for post-secondary success, understand workplace expectations and build 21st century skills. Signature events include: a College Expo; Interview Expo; Connect the Dots events to expand students’ networking skills; and an annual Speech Competition.

Project-Based Activities

Projects based on industry real-world challenges give students a practical use of academic learning, and prepares them for high-skill, high-wage employment.

Time To Act