Walgreens Pharmacy Tech Career Pathway Propels New Orleans Opportunity Youth
NOLABA knows a talented workforce is crucial to economic growth. Walgreens decided to approach talent attraction and retention through a new lens in New Orleans – by developing career pathways through the EMPLOY Collaborative (Employment & Mobility Pathways Linked for Opportunity Youth).
The career pathway centers around pharmacy technicians, a critical position to the success of Walgreens, said Regional Human Resources Generalist Danielle Garrett. According to EMPLOY, 14.5 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds in New Orleans are “opportunity youth,” meaning they are connected to neither education nor employment.
“When we were brainstorming around the Pharmacy Tech Career Pathway, our thoughts were around engaging and connecting with the community and addressing our staffing need,” Garrett said. “We will always have a need to recruit for this particular position. There are no real fundamental differences in the challenges that present when working with our opportunity youth. We recognize that ‘life happens,’ and we are committed to fostering an environment in which everyone succeeds.”
Walgreens’ first cohort of opportunity youth consists of four participants working at different stores – 900 Canal Street, 1826 N. Broad Street, 9705 Jefferson Highway and 2418 S. Carrollton Avenue. The participants in the pilot program have come through JOB1 Business and Career Solutions, one of EMPLOY’s Training Provider Partners that provides wrap-around services and case management.
Natalie Alexis, 24, works at Walgreens on S. Carrollton Avenue. She seized the opportunity to begin the program after completing an internship through JOB1. She began as a front-end cashier for three months before making the first transition in the pathway called the “designated hitter pathway.” This transition is accompanied by an increase in employee responsibilities – not just working in the store pharmacy, but also registering and beginning coursework for pharmacy technician certification. During this 6-9 month period, there will be three mandatory evaluations conducted by EMPLOY and Walgreens leadership.
“I was very excited when I got the job,” Alexis said. “I have to start doing the classes soon and learning more about the medicine so I can take the test and get certified. It would make me feel like I accomplished something.”
Garrett said the level of talent retention from the career pathway model will define success for Walgreens. Those in the “designated hitter pathway” must take the pharmacy technician certification exam within 18 months. If they pass, they transition into the “pharmacy technician pathway,” – embarking on a career as a pharmacy technician. If they don’t pass the exam, the “store manager pathway” provides the employee with an opportunity to invest the customer service experience, knowledge of Walgreens store operations and developed skill sets into an alternate career path with the company.
“Perhaps the biggest reward that we continue to reap from this pathway is the fact that we afford traditionally underserved youth with the opportunity to engage in meaningful work while building solid careers,” Garrett said. “I’m not sure that there is any other greater honor or benefit.”
To learn more about Walgreens’ pilot program and other ways NOLABA connects opportunity youth to employment opportunities, contact NOLABA Director of Integrated Partnerships Monique Robinson.