Health Care and Education & Workforce Development and Environment

Education programs provide job opportunities: Career Connections aims to curb turnover at entry level

July 11, 2005

When Luvinia Hollis moved to Indianapolis from Kentucky about five years ago, the then-42-year-old had few skills, so landing a job was difficult. She lived with her sisters and got some help from her ex-husband, but trying to make ends meet on $100 a week was nearly impossible.

"It was so horrible for me, you wouldn't believe," Hollis said.

She worked odd jobs for the next few years, making barely more than minimum wage.

Eventually, she found her way to JobLink, a community partnership between Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana and Clarian Health Partners. The program helps low-skill, low-wage workers get their foot in the door at Methodist, Indiana University Hospital and Riley Hospital for Children, the three hospitals that make up Clarian.

Today, Hollis is making $14.52 an hour and is the first female maintenance worker at Riley.

"It'll just get better, now," Hollis said. "I'm aspiring to do even more within Clarian. You know, us women, we look at what will get us there the fastest."

Hollis was one of 58 JobLink graduates June 30, when the program handed out "diplomas" to its last crop of future health care workers. Its last crop, that is, before it graduates to a broader program, Career Connections, expected to get off the ground in September. Generally, JobLink provided job seekers with a pipeline into Clarian by offer ing life skills and job-readiness workshops.

If a job match was found, the worker was paid minimum wage by JobLink, which was funded by a grant from Goodwill and Clarian, with the opportunity of "crossing over" to become an employee of Clarian in one of two departments: environmental services-mainly housekeeping-and nutrition and dietetics.

Career Connections-which will receive 65 percent of its first- and secondyear funding from Lilly Endowment Inc., then must be self-sufficient-plans to target entry-level jobs throughout the hospitals. Graduates could find themselves working as secretaries, registrars or in any of about 15 jobs.

"We're hoping to now get a broaderbased, larger population of people who may just want to get into health care," said Fran Klene, Career Connections' program coordinator.

That's a good thing for departments that have about 50 entry-level job openings on any given day, said Sheriee Ladd, director of human resources.

While Ladd could not provide specific turnover figures, about 40 percent of JobLink's 400 graduates since 1998 are still employed at Clarian, she said.

Indiana Hospital and Health Association Vice President Bob Morr said Clarian's focus on the kinds of jobs Career Connections hopes to fill is crucial.

"Turnover is fairly high because hospitals often hire folks who don't understand the environment, don't have the right skills sets or people skills," Morr said.

So, Career Connections will offer-free-a one-week, curriculum-based program that will include modules in health-care-related communications, Clarian culture, safety, and career assessment to a wider group, such as senior workers who may be looking for a part-time job.

But unlike JobLink, which paid workers until Clarian hired them, Career Connections offers no guarantees. Those who successfully complete the program will be given the chance to apply for a job at Clarian.

"The expectation of hire is a concern we're working through," Klene said.

An informational session offered before the program will explain expectations, which include a commitment to the 35 hours of course work, and submitting to drug screening and a background check.

If 30 people show up at an informational session, probably 10 will go through the program, Klene expects.

Clarian plans to market Career Connections mostly through its existing educational programs that Klene says already get a lot of interest.

She wants to take the program to college campuses and form collaborations with other state hospitals to create a pool of workers they can all tap into.

"Because the shortage is everywhere of good workers," she said. "There are enough unemployed people out there."
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