Creating a Youth Pipeline to Health Care Employment

A teenage girl is standing outside, wearing a medical mask and scrubs, and smiling.

Among the many goals of Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Families – the neighborhood revitalization initiative created by Nationwide Children’s Hospital – is increasing educational and employment opportunities for people in central Ohio.

For example, in 2021 alone, more than 250 residents of the South Side and Linden neighborhoods of Columbus were hired at Nationwide Children’s. The hospital has helped coordinate workforce development programs for years to make those hires possible in these traditionally underserved areas.

A somewhat newer effort is reaching younger people who may never have even considered a career in health care, research and similar fields: the Youth & Young Adult Employment Program.

“We’re doing two main things,” says Wendy Taylor, youth employment coach for Healthy Neighborhoods Health Families. “Some of these youth don’t know people who are in the health care field, so we are exposing them to those career fields. We also really want them to think of Nationwide Children’s as an employer of choice. When they finish high school, college or graduate from a career technical school, we want them to think about pursuing their careers with us.”

The program runs for two four-week summer sessions for young people 16-24 years of age. More than 70 participants earned $10 per hour in 2022 as they got hands-on experience in fields from nutrition services to cutting-edge genomic research. Professionals also provide them guidance on entering the fields that interest them most.

Many students come from Columbus City Schools, but students from throughout central Ohio are involved as well, says Taylor. Nationwide Children’s tries to eliminate any barriers to participation, providing meals, income and bus passes to students.

And the Youth & Young Adult Employment program does not end with the summer, says Taylor. She and other Nationwide Children’s mentors stay in touch with the students during the school year, building and deepening those existing relationships.

“Nationwide Children’s is trying to improve child health in a holistic way,” says Nick Jones, vice president of Community Wellness at the hospital. “At our heart is research and clinical care. But we also focus on housing, on education, on employment, on improving financial situations, because we know those factors also play big roles in health. The employment program links a lot of these efforts together to help young people.”

A number of young people who have gone through the summer program are now employed at Nationwide Children’s, and the hospital is planning on expanding its youth employment work in the near future, with programs that go through the school year, says Taylor.

“This has been a big success both for us and the students,” she says. “We’re looking forward to building on that.”