Anjelica Parker had been wanting to work at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital for more than a decade. When her first son, Donovan Coleman, now 16, was born, he had bad allergies and asthma that brought them to Le Bonheur regularly.
Parker’s love of kids and the care the doctors, nurses and other staff showed not only to her son but also to her made Parker sure it was the kind of place she wanted to be.
“They were nice. They were really sweet. You know, it just made us feel welcome every time we came,” she said. “It was a warm environment every time. It wasn’t like we were at the hospital.”
But each job application Parker put in was denied. Even though the hospital told her to keep applying for openings, the positions kept going to people already within the Methodist system. Then she heard about the Memphis Medical District Collaborative’s hire local program, which trains medical district residents for jobs at the district’s anchor institutions, like Le Bonheur.
Parker borrowed her mom’s car and drove across the bridge to Arkansas to get to the first available drug test appointment she could find and enrolled in hire local immediately. Now, she’s been working at Le Bonheur as a housekeeper for 15 months, something she credits in large part to the MMDC program.
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A new talent pipeline
Parker is one of 85 people who have graduated hire local, 65% of whom gained jobs at Medical District employers, said Latasha Harris, who oversees the hire local program. The MMDC hopes to train another 70 people through the program this year. To be eligible for the program, people must be 18 or older and eligible to work in the U.S.
Priority is given to applicants from the 38103, 38107, 38104, 38105, 38112, 38126, 38106 and 38114 ZIP codes.
The free program started in 2018 as a one-on-one job coaching program but expanded in 2020 into a multi-person class model as the need for employees continued to grow within the district.
And the classes are tailored to training people for the jobs the medical district’s anchor institutions are most in need of.
“We start by going through a needs assessment process with the employer to understand what the needs are, if there are gaps in skills that we need to address, and it’s based on what they tell us,” Harris said.
Hire local currently offers training for food service workers and housekeepers at the hospitals and certified nursing assistants and is starting a pilot program for high school students. That program, Career Launch Academy, offers free training for graduating high school seniors to become certified nursing assistants and launch a career in healthcare.
In addition to job-specific instruction, everyone who goes through hire local is taught a variety of skills from job interviewing tips and how to write a resume to communication skills and the role of emotional intelligence in teamwork and customer service.
Everyone who graduates the program is guaranteed an interview with one of the MMDC’s partner institutions. Hire local also helps graduates who do get new jobs with expenses like purchasing uniforms and follows them through their first year on the job to help them navigate any issues.
“I believe that we are helping folks reach their dreams. We want to connect them to a career that they love and a life that they want,” Harris said.
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While the program benefits those who go through it, there’s also a benefit for the employers, Harris said. There’s no cost to them and the program essentially allows for an expanded talent pipeline with no effort from the institutions.
“They’re filling 1,300 new jobs this year alone, 2,600 new jobs by the end of 2023,” Harris said of Medical District partner organizations. “So there’s tremendous opportunities to train folks. We know that there’s going to be 230 CNA roles that the hospitals are going to hire this year. And so we have a tremendous opportunity to help them find talent.”
Sarah Colley, senior vice president and chief human resources officer for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, said the MMDC was making a significant difference both for the Methodist system and the Medical District.
“We invest in our community when we hire people who live in or close to the Medical District. Once they are part of our team, we give new team members the opportunity to grow and develop through our Methodist Associate Advancement Program. We believe that hiring local talent increases our retention, improving the service we provide to our community. It is a win/win,” she said.
The program also allows training partners, like Southwest Tennessee Community College, to know what skills employers are actually looking for in this community, which improves educational offerings.
“We get to really be a connector, a liaison between trainers and employers so that we can create some alignment so that we’re doing a better job of training folks for jobs that are actually there,” Harris said.
A lifestyle change
For Parker, landing the job at Le Bonheur wasn’t just about getting to work for an organization she loved. All jobs hire local candidates interview for have a minimum starting salary of $15 an hour and an opportunity for career advancement.
Moving to Le Bonheur meant Parker’s salary doubled from what she was making working at Checkers. She now also has a life insurance policy and retirement plan through work, and she and her three boys have health, dental and vision insurance, benefits she had not had access to before.
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“Coming to Le Bonheur, it was a huge lifestyle change. I was able to do more with them. We’re able to go out to dinner more. We’re able to you know, kind of relax,” Parker said.
Parker’s three boys — Coleman, Christopher Warmsley III, 11, and Khaidyn Parker, 8 — all said their mom is happier and less stressed since she got the job at Le Bonheur. They also said they were able to do more fun stuff as a family, whether that be dinners or shopping trips.
She was able to buy the boys new shoes and clothes for school and a car for herself. They could afford to get the family together for dinners at places like Applebee’s and Chuck E. Cheese on a weeknight and not just for special occasions.
“Sometimes it’s still mind-blowing because I’m able to do this or buy nice things and I don’t have to get it from a secondhand store. So it’s a huge, huge life-changing experience,” Parker said.
Corinne S Kennedy covers economic development and healthcare for The Commercial Appeal. She can be reached via email at [email protected]