Hopkins internship helps move city residents into jobs

Welfare recipients gain jobs at Johns Hopkins Hospital, dent the state's unemployment rate

December 23, 2013|By Meredith Cohn, The Baltimore Sun

Olivia Griffin gets to her job at Johns Hopkins Hospital an hour early each work day just to make sure she isn't late.

It's not an easy feat for the 25-year-old mother of two who relies on the bus and subway for transportation from her West Baltimore home to the East Baltimore campus. But she doesn't mind because she loves her work and hopes to spend her career in health care at Hopkins.

"I had training as a medical assistant but I couldn't find a job opportunity," said Griffin, who began work in patient transportation in October but plans on becoming a registered nurse. "Hopefully this is my last job site. I'll further my career inside the hospital."

Griffin had been unemployed for a year and a half and receiving public assistance when she saw a flier for the Johns Hopkins General Services Internship Program. On Monday, she was among several newly employed city residents praised by Gov. Martin O'Malley during a news conference about the state's efforts to move welfare recipients to work.

He said Hopkins worked with the Baltimore Department of Social Services and the nonprofit Center for Urban Families to launch the internship program in January and has since graduated two classes. Of 48 interns who studied at the center for a month and at the hospital for five months, 28 finished and were hired by the hospital.

The program has helped the state see a record 12,504 people moving from public assistance to jobs in the year ending Sept. 30, according to data from the state Department of Human Services.

"Those 12,504 people were receiving temporary cash assistance, and I've never met anyone who didn't want it to be temporary," O'Malley said. But, he added, "in the last two years, it's not been easy to find a job."

O'Malley said that more than a third of the people who have gotten jobs are earning $10 an hour or more in fields including health care, warehousing, and educational and administrative support. Those at Hopkins earn between $10.71 and $12.06 an hour.

To ensure higher incomes for all Maryland residents, O'Malley said he planned to push for an increase in the minimum wage during the next legislative session that begins in January. Efforts last year to raise the rate from the current $7.25 an hour were opposed by employers and went nowhere.

In all, more than 75,000 people on public assistance in Maryland have gotten jobs in the last seven years, despite the difficult economy, O'Malley said.

Ted Dallas, state human resources secretary, said the state had been better responding to the needs of unemployed residents by matching them with job training, substance abuse treatment or other services that would make them more employable.

Others who completed the Hopkins internship, which involved class work and shadowing employees, said the program gave them their window of opportunity.

Terron Tucker, a 52-year-old Baltimore mother of one, said she left a job she'd had for two decades to care for an ailing relative and couldn't find work again once the relative died. She said going to social services for help left her depressed and without "her passion and her drive."

But now, Tucker, who works in Hopkins' environmental services, said, "The best Christmas gift I'll get is that I'm not unemployed."


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