July 2005

Career Development for Entry-Level Employees

Entry-level employees at two of Catholic Health Initiatives’ market-based organizations have a new option for career development: a program called School at Work.

“We already provided plenty of professional development opportunities for managers and supervisors, and School at Work enables us to provide the same type of opportunity to our entry-level employees,” said Jenny Skinner, director of corporate education for TriHealth, Cincinnati, Ohio. “The program motivates them to continue to learn, to earn degrees and to move into higher-skilled jobs right here at TriHealth.” Six employees graduated from the first School at Work program at TriHealth, and Saint Joseph HealthCare in Lexington, Ky., had an initial graduating class of 12. Both market-based organizations are now offering their second School at Work programs. Several other market-based organizations plan to add the program, developed by Catalyst Learning, to their employee development initiatives. School at Work is an eight-month program specifically designed for entry-level employees in health care. Participants often come from environmental services, food services and scheduling departments and have high school or equivalent diplomas. During the eight months of School at Work, participants complete two courses in two to four hours of class time each week. In the first course, students develop or re-develop basic skills in reading, writing, communications and math. The second course teaches medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, ethics, privacy, interpersonal skills and organizational skills. “Even if the participants already have some of these skills, School at Work refreshes their knowledge and builds their confidence,” said Skinner. “Their enthusiasm spreads to their co-workers, too. I’ve seen the morale of entire departments rise because they are proud of the employees involved in School at Work and of Tri-Health for offering the program.” According to Carol Keenan, director of human resources for Catholic Health Initiatives, School at Work can serve as a tool for retaining entry-level employees; developing career ladders for those employees; and “growing your own” workforce for harder-to-fill positions. “It’s a great program to promote employee engagement, and clearly supports efforts to create a work community of choice,” she said. Of the 18 students who completed the first School at Work programs at Saint Joseph and TriHealth, 14 quickly moved on to continuing education in health care, including programs in nursing, radiology, coding, medical stenography and information systems. This includes five of the six graduates from TriHealth, where Skinner was able to secure grant funds to cover college tuition and supply costs. In addition, several School at Work participants have already achieved job advancement as a direct result of their School at Work participation. “Of all the career development programs I’ve implemented and observed, this is one of the most rewarding and satisfying, both for the students and for TriHealth,” said Skinner. To find out more about School at Work, contact Carol Keenan at carolkeenan@catholichealth.net.