University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Aurora, Colorado

Key strategies employed

  • Prioritize community engagement
  • Function in a hub and navigator role
  • Partner with a workforce intermediary
  • Utilize a cohort training model focused on specific positions
  • Invest time into research, planning, and design
  • Involve hiring managers in the training process

Anchors

  • University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus (CU Anschutz)
  • University of Colorado Hospital
  • Children’s Hospital Colorado

Total number of employees

21,000 people

Mission of Program

“The Hire Local Program will increase the number of Original Aurora residents employed on the Anschutz Medical Campus and facilitate coordination and enhancement of career pathways (“pipeline”) programs on the campus.”

Overview

The Hire Local Program at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus (CU Anschutz) in Aurora, Colorado is part of a larger Community-Campus Partnership program (CCP). The goal of the Hire Local Program is to prepare local residents for jobs on campus; currently, the program focuses on entry-level opportunities within health sciences, facilities, and office support. The Hire Local program seeks to recruit underrepresented residents. To aid in this goal, they partner with local organizations for outreach, job training support, and to help applicants navigate the employers’ application processes. One of Hire Local’s recent pilot initiatives, the Healthcare Bridge Program, is designed to create pipelines into specific positions, utilizing a cohort training model. The geographic focus of  CCP, and within it the Hire Local initiative, is on North Aurora, which includes two zip codes with 90,000 total residents, out of the city population of 350,000.

Background

The Anschutz Medical Campus is situated on a former army medical base, which, up until 1995 when it closed, was the major employer for the City of Aurora. The closure of the base brought significant job loss, which led to families and businesses leaving the area. All of this resulted in a swift transition, from a middle class community to one with one of the highest poverty rates in the state. During this time, the University of Colorado Hospital began looking to expand its facility and the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center was interested in building new facilities. The closed base was an ideal location for this expansion. The Department of Defense sold the land to the State of Colorado, and a Denver-based philanthropist, Phil Anschutz, donated funds to create a new health sciences campus, which opened in 2008.

Initial community excitement turned to disappointment as little was done to connect this new investment to expanded employment opportunities or added services.  CCP was developed during the University of Colorado’s 2020 strategic planning process, which began in 2012. The new strategic plan recognized that the university could play a greater role in supporting the surrounding neighborhoods and the Aurora/Denver region. In 2012, an assessment was conducted to identify what infrastructure would be needed to connect the campus to the surrounding community and what would be involved in this new priority.

The research process identified that jobs were one of the community’s greatest needs and that a workforce development program could help to address this need. Additionally, research found that a lack of staff diversity was a pressing issue for the three major employers on the campus (the university and both hospitals). This presented an opportunity, since the neighborhoods surrounding the campus are some of the most diverse in Colorado, with many refugee and immigrant populations, and over 130 languages spoken in the Aurora Public Schools. Following the research process, an executive director was hired to establish CCP under the guidance of a coalition composed of thirty community and campus representatives, and with funding from the chancellor at CU, the vice chancellor at CU Anschutz, and The Denver Foundation.  Given that workforce development had been identified as a possible area for programming, The Denver Foundation sent a delegation of campus and Aurora leaders to Cleveland to learn about the Greater University Circle Initiative, including its Hire Local program with University Hospital (Step Up to UH).

Program set-up

The Healthcare Bridge Program is a pilot initiative in partnership with Community College of Aurora, both hospitals on the campus and Arapahoe/Douglas Works!, a county workforce center.  Currently, the program team is identifying the various components of a successful pipeline program, from outreach and recruitment to training, job readiness skill development, application, interviewing, and hiring.  Four cohorts, and forty-seven total graduates, have completed the program to date, with twenty-four graduates employed (though not all at the participating institutions). The full-time, ten week training program takes place at the community college, with tuition provided by the workforce center. Originally, the participants could follow one of two job paths: into patient services or to become sterile processing technicians. Currently, only the patient services track is offered, given the high number of job openings for positions within this field in the two hospitals. The training component is funded by a grant awarded to the Community College of Aurora from the Colorado Department of Education.  CCP’s full-time Hire Local manager, under the leadership of CCP’s Hire Local director, works closely with an instructor from the community college and two caseworkers from the workforce center on all aspects of the program: recruitment and screening, job readiness, student training, and coordinating with the hiring managers in the two hospitals. While the grant allows twenty to twenty-five people per cohort, participation has been under that. However, the office is currently working on a more robust recruitment strategy and looking to create pipelines for other positions within the hospitals and the university.  A fifth cohort will begin at the end of June, 2016.

Staffing and budget

CCP has seven full-time positions, with two full time employees dedicated to the Hire Local initiative. One staff person directs the program, working primarily with employers on their hiring systems and processes. The other is focused on the day-to-day groundwork of working with people in the pipeline. The estimated budget is $170,000 per year.

Funding

So far, funding has come primarily from the Chancellor of CU Anschutz and The Denver Foundation. Recently, University of Colorado Hospital and Children’s Hospital Colorado committed to help fund the initiative. Each institution has promised $200,000 per year over the next three years for community partnership work in general.  Support for human resources, grants and contracts, and information technology is provided in-kind to CCP from the program’s home department within the School of Medicine (Department of Family Medicine).

Key strategies employed

Prioritizing community engagement

A primary goal of CCP is to create an equitable relationship, built on shared decision-making power, between the campus and the community. This was also a primary focus of the design process for the Hire Local initiative. In 2014, staff began to conduct interviews with employers on campus about their hiring needs and what practices they currently had in place. Focus groups were held with community members in order to seek community input in order to try to ensure that the program would address community needs. Three focus groups were conducted, including one entirely in Spanish since nearly 60 percent of North Aurora residents speak Spanish as their first or second language. The groups found that interest in jobs on the campus was extremely high, but the actual application experience was onerous for residents. More specifically, groups explained that the entirely online application process was confusing—job titles were not easy to understand and with no personal contact until interviews were scheduled, applicants had little support to navigate the process.  Focus group participants expressed the need for a physical location with a staff person who could provide application support and answer questions. Through the conversations, it also became clear that education and training around university and hospital jobs would be beneficial. In addition to identifying employer and community needs, the focus groups were an important step in getting employer buy-in. CCP staff presented the results at an employer summit that brought together all the employment leadership from the institutions on campus.

 

Impact

  • 47 graduates
  • 24 employed
  • Average wage of first cohort: $18.73/hr.

Benefits

  • Lower turnover
  • Greater employee satisfaction
  • Greater diversity, bringing staff demographics in line with patient populations
  • Improved community perception

Specific positions graduates are hired into

  • Patient care services
  • Sterile processing technicians

Functioning in a hub and navigator role

The focus group process brought to light the need for one central location that community members could go to for application assistance. The vision is for community members to be able to go, as needed, to the center, where staff will help them identify opportunities for jobs (working from a catalog of available positions) centered on each community member’s skillset and interests. While this community hub location has not yet opened, the staff position to provide this type of support exists. A full-time Hire Local manager works directly with individuals on the application process and does the on-the-ground work like checking in daily with applicants to ensure they are on track.

Hire Local also serves as a hub for other workforce intermediaries. For example, the Hire Local manager works closely with local community organizations focused on connecting refugees to jobs. One of their partners provides services to highly qualified refugees who do not yet have the US credentials they need to work in a specific job. Hire Local helps these organizations identify positions with transferable skills in similar fields. In addition, the Hire Local manager connects applicants to other wrap-around services, such as childcare and transportation.

Cohort training model targeted at specific positions

The pipeline program is built on a cohort model that trains individuals for specific position categories.  Each cohort has a maximum of twenty-five participants and lasts ten weeks. The program has a strong focus on building literacy, but contextualized in the healthcare setting. Participants also receive soft skill supports such as résumé feedback and interview preparation. Cohort members are invited to visit campus, tour the hospital with a hiring manager, see the work environment, and put faces to the names of the people who conduct interviews. A recent program development has been the addition of “speed interviewing,” where each student gets to interview with the hiring managers during the site visit. Along with providing interview practice and getting feedback on their skills, managers then flag candidates they are interested in.

Involvement of Hiring Managers

In addition to these speed interviews, leadership in the Human Resources Department has made a commitment to formally interview all participants who complete the program and apply for a position.  The Hire Local manager works closely with individual hiring managers to ensure that this happens. Moreover, University of Colorado Hospital added a field on their online application form where applicants can identify that they found out about the position through Hire Local, thus making the hiring manager aware that this is an applicant they want to interview.

Time investment into research, planning, and design

A significant time investment was put into research and building program infrastructure, with much of it still in development. Six months were set aside to build relationships with employers and interview them about their needs. This was not only informational, but helped to build relationships and trust. Similarly, conducting the focus groups initiated the ongoing work of creating outreach networks.  Another key part of the research was looking at employment data from the two hospitals. This data showed that approximately 5 percent of employees in the two hospitals live in the zip codes surrounding campus, and that staff demographics were not representative of community demographics. Having this data made a stronger case for getting employer buy-in for the program.

For more information

com-cam.org/bridging-the-gaps-current-projects-undertakings/

Contact

Robert J. McGranaghan, MPH, Director
Community-Campus Partnership
Senior Instructor, Department of Family Medicine, CU School of Medicine and
Department of Community & Behavioral Health, Colorado School of Public Health
Phone: 734-358-0648
Email: robert.mcgranaghan@ucdenver.edu

Sources

Robert McGranaghan, interview by David Zuckerman and Katie Parker, April 7, 2016, transcript.

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, “Improve Economic Well-being,” website accessed May 2016, com-cam.org/bridging-the-gaps-current-projects-undertakings/

 

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