Yariela Kerr-Donovan, Senior Director for Strategic Workforce Development

Yariela Kerr-DonovanYariela Kerr-Donovan is senior director for strategic workforce development. In that role, the 14-year workforce development professional oversees a health system office responsible for career and workforce development, skill building and education and training for Johns Hopkins employees. In addition, her office oversees programs and services for youth and adults from the community. Read the Q&A to learn how these programs can help employees with advancement opportunities.

Tell me about the mission of the Office of Strategic Workforce Development.

Our office, which is within the Department of Human Resources for the Johns Hopkins Health System, provides programs and services to help current health system employees advance their careers at Johns Hopkins, youth understand careers in health care, and partner with community organizations to provide training to community adults to become competitive, qualified applicants for employment at Hopkins We have four coaches, one youth program coordinator, two part-time and two casual/on-call skills enhancement instructors, and one staff assistant.

We strive to provide our employees and organization with the workforce/career preparation, access and opportunities to meet their career or workforce goals.

Can you share some examples of your youth programs?

We have the Summer Jobs Program where 461 Baltimore City students complete an eight-week paid internship in one of the various departments, culminating with a closing ceremony celebration on Aug. 17.

We also have yearlong programs, such as Bond-to-Bond (Building Our Neighbors Dreams Beyond Our Neighbors’ Doors), which provides mentoring and internships to high school students, and the Adopt-A-Class/Career Day program that introduces fourth and sixth graders to hospital careers.

We also provide our entry-level employees who have a daughter accepted to the Institute of Notre Dame (IND) with an opportunity to receive a scholarship that is applied to their tuition costs.

What about the community adult programs?

There are individuals in our neighborhoods who are not connected to employment who have a great attitude and customer service skills, but for whatever reason got disconnected and derailed. We work with community based organizations to help those individuals find employment at Hopkins that can help them sustain themselves and their families and get back on track.

We do that with an on-the-job training internship program for adults, including individuals with disabilities and returning citizens, and with direct coaching for the employment application process to help them become gainfully employed. For the most part, the positions they fill are our entry-level positions in general services and facilities. We are always looking for other positions at Hopkins for which an on-the-job training experience will help interns gain employment at our Institution.

We invite our partners to information sessions to help them understand the opportunities that are available at Hopkins, and how to pipeline their clients into these roles. Some of the partners are: BUILD, Turnaround Tuesday, Center for Urban Families, Catholic Charities, Christopher’s Place through Catholic Charities, Vincent DePaul, Esperanza Center and Humanim.

And for current, or incumbent, employees?

We support a variety of occupations across the health system that have critical shortages, as defined by the department, such as registered nurses, pharmacy techs, clinical techs, respiratory therapy techs, patient service coordinators, clinical customer service reps, anesthesia critical care technicians, surgery techs and radiology techs, to name a few.

The Johns Hopkins Hospital Soaring Program prepares certified nursing assistants to practice in an advanced direct patient care role. The Ladders in Nursing Careers (LINC) trains employees to become registered nurses. Project REACH participants attend school full-time and work part-time while maintaining full salary benefits. The journey from EVC to clinical technician to nurse is pretty neat. At the end of their education with any of these trainings, these employees can get hired in their new role, and sometimes earn a considerable bump in pay per hour if they’re moving from front line entry-level position to a middle skills job.

We partner with community-based colleges, e.g. Baltimore City Community College (BCCC), to support students seeking degrees.

There also is Joint Education Council training fund for represented employees funded by Hopkins and the SEIU union.

What are some of the challenges that you are addressing?

We want to create more awareness of our programs, services and training/educational opportunities. Also, we want to make sure that employees understand the requirements for some of our services, such as with regard to performance, time and attendance. There are also educational requirements that employees must meet to be eligible for certain trainings.

For example, employees who want to become critical care technicians must take the prerequisites before they can take the anesthesia core courses (to get certification to start working). Our department, in partnership with the Anesthesia Department, is supporting those courses through Community College of Baltimore County.

If individuals have a barrier to their career or educational goals we can work with them through our coaching services to address, and, hopefully, eliminate them.

What is your background?

I was born in Panama and moved to the states, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, when I was young. When I was 14, I worked as an administrative assistant in the accounting firm where my mother worked in Manhattan. After high school, I went to Cornell University and earned my undergraduate degree in hospitality management and a masters in HR. My first job was in tourism. Some of my other jobs were in food and beverage, preopening work for a hotel, student admissions, minority affairs, university lecturer and retail manager.

I eventually moved to Maryland in 2003. I served as the adjunct professor for the hospitality management courses at BCCC and led their participation in a grant with two other community colleges in the United States and three international community colleges, working on a capstone exchange course between the U.S. and European colleges. In 2004, there was an opening at Hopkins to manage an 18-month, $3 million Department of Labor grant for an incumbent worker career acceleration program. By 2008, I had become director of Project Reach and Community Education and last year became senior director of strategic workforce development. I am a member of the HR team with Hopkins Local and last year became chairperson of the Baltimore Workforce Development Board with the Mayor’s Office.

How should managers get more information?

They can visit the HR website at hopkinsmedicine.org/human_resources/education_programs/, call 443-997-4587, or email our office at ProjectREACH@jhmi.edu

--Janet Anderson




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