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ReACHing for Recovery

October 4, 2010

by Sarah Oldmixon, Director of Workforce Initiatives, The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region

If you caught the headlines last week, you’ve heard that the Great Recession is technically over. While our GDP may have begun inching upwards, for the millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans, the word “recovery” can ring more than a little hollow.

One of the few bright spots in the labor market is the health care sector. With demand for high-quality care steadily increasing across the country, careers in health care provide valuable opportunities for many who are currently unemployed or struggling to stay afloat in their current job.

For the past year, The Community Foundation’s Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative (GWWDC) has been working with regional healthcare employers to tap into this opportunity. The resulting initiative – the Regional Alliance for Careers in Health or “ReACH” – was launched in partnership with employers in late 2009 to accomplish three goals:

  • Improve workers’ access to healthcare career opportunities, particularly for low-income, unemployed and under-employed workers;
  • Address the workforce needs of the region’s healthcare employers; and
  • Increase the overall quality of care available to Greater Washington residents.


ReACH has begun convening regional employers twice yearly to discuss workforce development challenges and opportunities for collaboration. On Tuesday, September 21st, ReACH convened employers for the second time this year. Participating organizations included Suburban Hospital, Ascension Health, Howard University Hospital, Washington Adventist Hospital, Holy Cross, CVS Caremark, Kaiser Permanente, Providence Hospital, and Washington Hospital Center/Medstar. This convening provided participants with an opportunity to discuss shared challenges, share best practices, and learn about two opportunities to partner with other employers and community organizations to address their workforce needs:

  • A partnership between Providence Hospital, Catholic University of America, the Community College of the District of Columbia, DC Department on Disability Services, DC Department of Employment Services, DC Primary Care Association, Providence Hospital, the Regional Alliance for Careers in Health, and United Planning Organization, Capital Health Careers is an innovative program that helps local residents launch or advance health careers. Funded through a $4.9 million Federal recovery act grant, Capital Health Careers is working to train 500 low-income and unemployed residents from throughout the Washington region. Employers interested in learning more about how they can get involved should contact Tracy McGhee at


  • In response to the workforce development needs identified at the May 2010 meeting of ReACH employers, the Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative announced the availability of $25,000 “Career Navigator” grants for select hospitals that are interested in launching or expanding career coaching initiatives. These projects help entry-level workers succeed in the workplace (thus reducing turnover), improve their skills (thus improving quality of care), and advance their careers (thereby helping their families move into the middle class). Interested hospitals can learn more about how to apply for this funding by contacting me at soldmixon@  Proposals are due on October 31, 2010.


Through ReACH, GWWDC and The Community Foundation are supporting efforts to ensure that the “recovery” doesn’t leave behind the individuals most impacted by the economic downturn. It’s through the support of local foundations, businesses, and donors that this work is made possible. To find out more about ReACH and GWWDC, and to learn how you can help our efforts to put our community back to work, contact Sarah Oldmixon, Director of Workforce Initiatives, at

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