two rows of adults, front row holding certificates/diplomas and smiling
Graduates of first cohort of CareFirst Workforce Development Program.

The inaugural cohort of participants in CareFirst’s West Baltimore Workforce Development Program graduated this week, after more than 12 weeks of training in a program preparing them for careers in community health, customer service, and more.

As part of the cohort that launched in August, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield partnered with Coppin State University and Center for Urban Families to train 10 individuals in foundational knowledge, crucial soft skills, and problem-solving to prepare them for their new fields. The training program also offers wraparound services including transportation, childcare, healthcare, education and financial literacy, often crucial help to reduce barriers to a 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,” said Brian D. Pieninck, president and CEO of CareFirst. “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.”

CareFirst actively recruited residents from the 21215, 21216, and 21217 zip codes, after determining they were “uniquely positioned to support the growth and development in the region,” in partnership with the West Baltimore Workforce Development Program, read the press release. CareFirst’s goal was to drive engagement with the community, build trust, and build a workforce able to serve its members and communities. In 2024, it hopes to increase recruitment efforts in West Baltimore with more 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,” said Dr. Anthony L. Jenkins, president of Coppin State University. “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 their efforts to create lasting economic and community change, CareFirst collaborated with local employers in West Baltimore to create sustainable wage jobs and jobs that are located near vital social support systems so they’d be accessible for their 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,” said Joseph T. Jones Jr., President and CEO of Center for Urban Families. “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 graduation was attended by multiple elected officials and community officials. Governor Wes Moore, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby, and State Senator Antonio Hayes were on hand to celebrate with the inaugural cohort. The ceremony was held at Coppin State University.

“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,” said Moore. “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.”

CareFirst is currently hiring the next West Baltimore Workforce Development Program cohort. To learn more or apply, click here

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