This Internship Is Changing Lives in Underserved Communities

This Internship Is Changing Lives in Underserved Communities

The program provides under-resourced communities with career opportunities while tapping new pipeline of diverse talent.

Though the data ties back to a community health needs assessment (CHNA) conducted a decade ago, they’re a source of inspiration for the work Rolando Gomez does today. The most notable data point: nearly one in four young adults ages 18 to 24 in Los Angeles did not have a high school diploma or GED equivalent.

“That data stuck with me the most—it created a cohort here of unemployed and unskilled individuals who were not able to participate in a highly competitive employment market,” says Gomez, MBA, director of community relations and strategic initiatives, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). “Overlay that with the fact that many of these individuals identified as persons of color and were living in under-resourced communities, and we saw an opportunity to have a role in designing solutions to address some of these workforce challenges.”

To meet those challenges, CHLA leveraged its existing corporate partnerships and community-based employment-assistance initiatives to create the Careers in Health and Mentorship Program (CHAMP). Since its 2013 launch, CHAMP has enabled nearly 300 Los Angeles-area students to gain experience and exposure to non-clinical employment opportunities across CHLA, including:

  • Hospital administration
  • Marketing and communications
  • Patient relations
  • Information technology
  • Finance and accounting
  • Human resources
  • Advocacy and public policy
  • Population health

The program includes a series of career-readiness workshops focusing on a variety of roles across the organization, as well as a project-based internship within one CHLA department. The goal is to arm CHAMP graduates with the skills necessary to gain entry-level employment and a path toward a meaningful career—no matter where that path leads them.

“Our mission speaks to supporting our communities, especially underserved populations, and this program really brings that mission forward,” Gomez says. “We're providing opportunities for work and economic success—whether it’s at CHLA or another local organization.”

Internship program pays dividends for hospital

Gomez says CHAMP’s success is a by-product of a coordinated effort across—and outside—the CHLA organization. “It takes a lot of great minds, a lot of hands and a lot of heart,” Gomez says. “It has been quite a phenomenal engagement internally; externally, the partnerships are critical—we can't do any of this alone.”

The internship program is one piece of a broader CHLA initiative to promote healthier communities with wellness programs outside traditional health care solutions. As CHAMP enters its tenth year, Gomez says it’s also making a positive difference for the hospital in two key areas:

Talent pool. Amid a tight labor market, the program promotes careers for potential applicants who might not have considered—or been aware of—opportunities in health care. In visits to area schools, Gomez says he finds students typically only think of clinical roles as career options within a hospital.

“One of the program’s greatest successes has been inspiring some people to look at health care differently as a professional home,” Gomez says. “There’s a great opportunity through this program to pique interest in health care administration and know there are other options in the industry.” Gomez adds that many CHAMP graduates accept permanent positions within CHLA following their internships, including several currently in leadership positions at the hospital.

Diversity. In helping to recruit a more inclusive workforce, the program has been instrumental in infusing unique voices into the organization, according to Gomez. He says CHAMP’s month-long workshops focusing on specific industry challenges have been particularly eye-opening.

“It’s been interesting to hear these diverse perspectives and fresh new ideas coming to the table around how we can seek to address some of these challenges,” Gomez says. “The program has worked well in specifically building a pipeline for the recruitment of talent with some diverse perspectives.”

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