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A hand up through hands-on experience

August 03, 2021 | Community

A pharmacy cashier uses a scanner to scan the smartphone of the customer buying diapers.

Days after interviewing for a pharmacy tech training position at CVS Health, 17-year-old high school student McKenzie Schiavone became homeless.

She got the job, becoming one of the first students to go through a new CVS Health Workforce Initiatives training program enabling high school students to intern with employers in their field.

Throughout her senior year, while working as many hours as she could, she stayed with various friends and relatives, but told no one at school or work about her unstable living situation.

McKenzie completed the training program, graduated 10th in her class, and began attending Simmons University in Boston. She also became a valuable employee at CVS Health, which transferred her to a store closer to her college campus.

Partnerships with vocational high schools are just one of the ways that CVS Health’s Workforce Initiatives program helps to build nontraditional talent pipelines. The Workforce Initiatives program also partners with local, state and federal workforce agencies, as well as faith-based and community organizations, to provide employment support and training in underserved communities.

“We work with youth and older workers, veterans, people with disabilities, immigrants and other populations that may have some barrier to employment,” says Ernie Dupont, Senior Director of Workforce Initiatives. The unique department was recently included in a CVS Health investment of nearly $600 million to advance initiatives that address inequity.

Two masked men sit in a conference room to discuss work training.
The Ebenezer Baptist Church in Pittsburgh is one of six WITC’s nationwide.

Among the core Workforce Initiatives programs are Heroes2Careers, for veterans and military spouses; Abilities in Abundance, for people with disabilities; and Workforce Innovation and Talent Centers (WITCs), which offer a variety of related services for the community.

Each of the six WITCs nationwide includes classrooms, office space and a mock CVS Pharmacy. CVS Health works with partners to understand and address the broader needs of local communities, Ernie says.

McKenzie, now age 22 and a district performance coordinator with CVS Health, hopes people will take advantage of the opportunities. “Being with CVS Health has opened up so many doors, and the one stable thing in my life for five years has been this company,” she says.

“There are two things that we believe are at the very foundataion of the work we do,” Ernie explains. “One is breaking the cycle of poverty. The other is providing opportunities for each individual to reach their potential and be successful in the workplace — and, more broadly, in life.”