The Polus Center, in partnership with the MassHire Workforce Board, MRC and Thryv Consulting Group, is celebrating the completion of their first online CVS Health Pharmacy Technician training program, through the Commonwealth Corporation's Employment of Youth with Disabilities grant program.
When the Polus Center for Social & Economic Development, got the word in January 2020 that they had received a Young Adults with Disabilities Employment grant to offer CVS Pharmacy Technician training — they got busy recruiting 15 young adults (age 18-35) to participate. Polus, a Massachusetts non-profit agency that promotes employment opportunities for people with disabilities, is collaborating on the project with longtime partners Commonwealth Corporation, MassHire North Central MA Workforce Board, and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.
The training was set to begin in March — when COVID happened. It didn’t take long for the team (Jen Duval, Theresa Kane, from Polus; Crystal Silva from Thryv Consulting; and Jeff Roberge from MassHire) to conclude that they’d have to take the program online. Jen and Crystal began contacting participants and providing computers and hot spots for those who needed them. They confirmed a training calendar that offered all the technical skills needed to land a job at CVS as well as soft skills such as Emotional Intelligence, Stress Management, Customer Service, and Resolving Conflict. Enrolled students became members of the Career Center and completed the Career Center Seminar. They then began the training — working 3 days a week on Zoom for 8 weeks. Career Center staff taught interview skills and members of the Workforce Board volunteered to conduct online mock interviews. The trainers reported little absenteeism and full student engagement.
In many ways providing the training online was advantageous, as it avoided the challenges and expenses of transportation, logistics, and childcare. Within days of “graduation,” one of the participants was offered a job. They are all now completing applications and interviewing for positions at CVS Health. Last year 85% of the people who completed the program became employed at CVS Health or a similar job.
The Pharmacy Technician Training Program was created in partnership with MRC in 2013 and has become a model for job-driven training. MRC partnered with Polus and the MassHire Workforce Board in 2019 to implement the first Employment of Youth with Disabilities grant from the Commonwealth Corporation. Similar to MRC’s offering to their consumers, this grant afforded the opportunity to open it up to a broader group of young adults with disabilities. It is a perfect example of a private-public partnership. CVS Health shares its training curriculum and provides access to its learning management system. Managers from CVS joined some of the zoom calls, highlighting open positions and job requirements. MRC, Polus, and other agencies such as My Turn and Open Sky Community Services provide referrals and case managers to support people before, during, and after the training as they complete their job search. Thryv Consulting Group provides training, follow-up, and technical support.
The upside? People with barriers to employment now have the skills, confidence, and “edge-up” to fill one of CVS’s hundreds of in-demand Massachusetts jobs. The team hopes to repeat the online program for people with disabilities and others with barriers to employment. For more information about the CVS Pharmacy Tech program, contact Jen Duval, jduval [at] poluscenter.org, 978-273-1898, www.poluscenter.org.