This week, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the largest not-for-profit health plan in the mid-Atlantic region, hosted a graduation for the first cohort of their West Baltimore Workforce Development Program, which launched in August in partnership with Coppin State University and Center for Urban Families.
Over 12 weeks of training, 10 individuals learned foundational knowledge, crucial soft skills, and problem-solving that will equip cohort members for careers in community health, customer service and more. The program also offers a suite of wraparound supports from transportation to childcare to healthcare navigation, education and financial literacy, vital elements that enabled each cohort member’s participation.
“At CareFirst, we want healthcare to be affordable and accessible to ensure everyone has a fair and just chance for a healthy life. As an anchor institution, we are committed to removing obstacles to good health and working to ensure more people have access to careers with fair pay, quality education, adequate housing, affordable healthcare and more,” Brian D. Pieninck, President and CEO of CareFirst, said. “We’re excited to partner with Coppin State University and Center for Urban Families on a program that tangibly impacts economic opportunities in our shared communities and connects outstanding local talent with a career at CareFirst.”
The West Baltimore Workforce Development Program is a groundbreaking, multimillion dollar investment focused on creating economic opportunities in West Baltimore. CareFirst identified where they were uniquely positioned to support the growth and development in the region. Then, actively recruited residents from 21215, 21216 and 21217 zip codes to drive engagement with the community, build trust, and build a workforce able to serve its members and communities. The first cohort trained an inaugural 10 individuals. The aim in 2024 is to increase recruitment efforts in West Baltimore and expand the roles offered through the program.
“West Baltimore is historically known to be at the intersection of challenges in economic opportunity and community wellness. Solving these issues demands innovative solutions, and we believe this is one of them,” Dr. Anthony L. Jenkins, President of Coppin State University, said. “As an anchor institution in West Baltimore, we are proud to partner with CareFirst in this initiative to empower individuals in our community with the skills to control their own futures.”
As part of the initiative, CareFirst collaborated with local employers to infuse West Baltimore with sustainable wage jobs, thus breathing life into economic prospects for the community. Simultaneously, jobs are co-located with vital social support systems, ensuring an accessible work experience for West Baltimore employees.
“We at the Center for Urban Families deeply understand the role job readiness skills and investment in workforce skills training can dismantle poverty and transform families in Baltimore City,” Joseph T. Jones Jr., President and CEO of Center for Urban Families, said. “We are proud to partner with CareFirst because they understand how all of these factors, including health and wellness, tie together to ensure prosperous families.”
The celebration was held at Coppin State University and a number of elected officials and community business leaders, attended.
Governor Wes Moore shared, “Today, we celebrate a significant milestone as 10 graduates emerge from an innovative and collaborative workforce development initiative facilitated by CareFirst, Coppin State University, and the Center for Urban Families. I have shared that it has to be Baltimore’s time to be Maryland’s decade, and initiatives like this symbolize our city’s resilience and the potential of every citizen to contribute to our collective progress. I commend CareFirst, Coppin State University, and the Center for Urban Families for this progressive initiative. Today, we are not just celebrating the success of these 10 graduates; we are acknowledging the promise of a revitalized West Baltimore.”
Mayor Brandon Scott stated, “It is my vision to create safer and stronger communities in Baltimore. CareFirst’s West Baltimore Workforce Development Program is a prime example of the positive outcomes that emerge when community organizations and leaders collaborate, leveraging our collective power to drive real change for Baltimore and its residents.”
Council President Nick J. Mosby shared, “I want to say congratulations to the 10 Difference Makers graduating today. You’re the first wave of an unprecedented effort to bring jobs, economic growth, and opportunity to the hard-working folks of West Baltimore. Your community, your families, and your City Council President are incredibly proud of you. You should be proud too. Be proud of the journey and the inspiring effects you have on your neighbors. You have truly led by example. And thank you to CareFirst. On behalf of the City Council, we applaud and support your commitment to hire 100 new workers this year in West Baltimore. We look forward to even more graduations in the coming years.”
State Senator Antonio Hayes stated, “It is refreshing to see corporations like CareFirst using their resources and the power of community organizations and institutions to address social issues within the communities they serve. We can make more progress together, and this partnership and workforce development program are proof.”
CareFirst is currently hiring the next West Baltimore Workforce Development Program cohort. To learn more or apply, click here.
About CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield
In its 86th year of service, CareFirst, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is a not-for-profit healthcare company which, through its affiliates and subsidiaries, offers a comprehensive portfolio of health insurance products and administrative services to 3.5 million individuals and employers in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia. In 2022, CareFirst invested $24.1 million to improve overall health, and increase the accessibility, affordability, safety and quality of healthcare throughout its market areas. To learn more about CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, visit our website at www.carefirst.com and our transforming healthcare page at www.carefirst.com/