Workforce Development Lessons From the Baltimore Health Corps

Posted September 30, 2022
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
A group of adults sit in a conference room. They wear business attire as they observe a presentation.

A new report, Eval­u­a­tion of the Bal­ti­more Health Corps Pilot: An Eco­nom­ic and Pub­lic Health Response to the Coro­n­avirus, pro­vides valu­able insight into how Baltimore’s unique con­tact-trac­ing ini­tia­tive trained and employed hun­dreds of city res­i­dents dur­ing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Respond­ing to the Con­se­quences of the Pandemic

The Bal­ti­more Health Corps was a city-run pilot pro­gram fund­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, the Rock­e­feller Foun­da­tion and oth­er part­ners. Launched in June 2020, the pilot simul­ta­ne­ous­ly addressed two issues: the spread of COVID-19 and the result­ing employ­ment cri­sis faced by Bal­ti­more res­i­dents. The pilot con­clud­ed in Decem­ber 2021.

The Bal­ti­more City Health Depart­ment and the Mayor’s Office of Employ­ment Devel­op­ment led the Bal­ti­more Health Corps, draw­ing on their expe­ri­ences with equi­table recruit­ment and hir­ing prac­tices, work­force-sup­port­ing activ­i­ties and pub­lic health work­er train­ing. Togeth­er, they led a team of pub­lic and pri­vate part­ners that includ­ed the Bal­ti­more Civic Fund, Bal­ti­more Corps, Health­Care Access Mary­land (HCAM), Jhpiego and the Mayor’s Office of Per­for­mance and Inno­va­tion.

The ini­tia­tive tracked those who con­tract­ed the virus at the height of the pan­dem­ic and con­nect­ed COVID-19-pos­i­tive indi­vid­u­als with test­ing, resources and oth­er assis­tance. In doing so, the Bal­ti­more Health Corps also placed unem­ployed work­ers on a path to high-qual­i­ty, last­ing careers via tem­po­rary posi­tions as com­mu­ni­ty health work­ers with the Bal­ti­more City Health Depart­ment and Health­Care Access Mary­land (HCAM). The pro­gram hired from a pool of Bal­ti­more res­i­dents who reflect­ed the city’s racial and eth­nic demo­graph­ics and were unem­ployed, under­em­ployed or fur­loughed because of the pandemic. 

By Sep­tem­ber 2021, 336 health work­ers had received train­ing and took on roles with­in either the Health Corps’ con­tact trac­ing and out­reach pro­gram or the care coor­di­na­tion and access program.

While these health work­er posi­tions were intend­ed to last just eight months, as the pan­dem­ic per­sist­ed, the jobs were extend­ed thanks to fund­ing from the Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan Act. As of May 2022, 126 Bal­ti­more Health Corps work­ers remain employed with either the health depart­ment or HCAM, while 119 for­mer staff mem­bers have since moved on to oth­er employ­ment opportunities.

The Bal­ti­more Health Corps pilot pro­gram was designed from the ground up to com­bat the short-term and long-term con­se­quences of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic,” says Tal­ib Horne, direc­tor of the Foundation’s Bal­ti­more Civic Site. Those employed by the Bal­ti­more Health Corps not only helped to pre­vent the spread of the virus, but they also gained life­long skills that they can con­tin­ue to use for the ben­e­fit of their communities.”

Build­ing a Work­force Beyond the Pandemic

The Bal­ti­more Health Corps’ design includ­ed a crit­i­cal com­po­nent — career nav­i­ga­tion assis­tance for each team mem­ber. Ser­vices included:

  • guid­ance explor­ing and nav­i­gat­ing poten­tial careers using Mathematica’s Goal4 It! model; 
  • access to legal ser­vices and behav­ioral health care; and 
  • help with place­ment in more per­ma­nent jobs once the pilot ended. 

Accord­ing to the eval­u­a­tion, 87% of Bal­ti­more Health Corps work­ers used career nav­i­ga­tion assis­tance, 82% accessed legal ser­vices and 42% took advan­tage of the behav­ioral health ser­vices avail­able to them.

Anoth­er aspect of the pro­gram was occu­pa­tion­al train­ing. Pro­vid­ed by Bal­ti­more Alliance for Careers in Health­care, it ensured inclu­sive hir­ing and employ­ee reten­tion. The train­ing gave 100 can­di­dates who ini­tial­ly lacked qual­i­fi­ca­tions the oppor­tu­ni­ty to hone their skills or learn new ones while apply­ing for Bal­ti­more Health Corps. The eval­u­a­tion found that those who com­plet­ed this pre-job train­ing were more like­ly to stay employed with the pro­gram, and 63% of par­tic­i­pants found the train­ing very helpful.”

Draw­ing on sur­veys, focus groups and data pro­vid­ed by pro­gram part­ners, the eval­u­a­tion also revealed chal­lenges. Staff not­ed that the vir­tu­al hir­ing required by the pan­dem­ic made find­ing can­di­dates, man­ag­ing the appli­ca­tion process and extend­ing job offers more dif­fi­cult and that many of these steps would have been eas­i­er in person. 

Rec­om­men­da­tions for Work­force Devel­op­ment Efforts

Eval­u­a­tors offer sev­er­al rec­om­men­da­tions based on the Bal­ti­more Health Corps pilot’s suc­cess­ful work­force devel­op­ment efforts:

  • Peo­ple skills are essen­tial. Where pos­si­ble, iden­ti­fy can­di­dates who excel at cus­tomer ser­vice and collaboration. 
  • Cre­ate real­is­tic time­lines for hir­ing and train­ing. Exist­ing staff and new employ­ees par­tic­i­pat­ing in a work­force devel­op­ment pro­gram should be giv­en enough time to prop­er­ly train and under­stand the val­ues of the initiative. 
  • Choose the right project man­ag­er. Hire a ded­i­cat­ed project man­ag­er — ide­al­ly one with expe­ri­ence work­ing with pri­vate orga­ni­za­tions and pub­lic agencies. 
  • Give work­ers the sup­port they need. Many Bal­ti­more Health Corps work­ers report­ed sat­is­fac­tion with the resources and ben­e­fits they received dur­ing the appli­ca­tion process and while employed. 

The ini­tia­tive pro­vid­ed res­i­dents an oppor­tu­ni­ty to serve the city and gain expe­ri­ence and trans­fer­able skills to take with them on their career paths,” says Jason Perkins-Cohen, direc­tor of the Mayor’s Office of Employ­ment Devel­op­ment. We were able to hire inclu­sive­ly and equi­tably while also address­ing the pub­lic health emergency.”

Dis­cov­er How Casey Sup­port­ed Fam­i­lies Dur­ing the Pandemic

This post is related to:

Popular Posts

View all blog posts   |   Browse Topics

Youth with curly hair in pink shirt

blog   |   June 3, 2021

Defining LGBTQ Terms and Concepts

A mother and her child are standing outdoors, each with one arm wrapped around the other. They are looking at each other and smiling. The child has a basketball in hand.

blog   |   August 1, 2022

Child Well-Being in Single-Parent Families