An Advocate program is building leaders and a more inclusive workforce

Selena Alvarez

Working in health care wasn’t something Selena Alvarez had ever considered. But when given the opportunity, she jumped at it so she could learn new skills and create a better future for herself and her family. She was involved in a program at the National Latino Education Institute (NLEI) and was given a chance to receive hands-on work experience at Advocate Aurora Health.

That turned into an actual job opportunity thanks to NLEI’s partnership with the Advocate Workforce Initiative (AWI). Selena enrolled in AWI’s Medical Assistant Program and it turned out a future in health care was a great fit for her. “I learned a lot from an experienced teacher who was a doctor. I started to really like it,” she says.

Selena also shares that the opportunity could not have come at a more critical time. “The same month I began working for Advocate, my father was let go at his job. We were not financially stable. We were worried about keeping our house.”

AWI partners with community organizations, like NLEI, to create an inclusive, skilled workforce and help families exit poverty. It not only provides training but also affords credentials, industry mentorship, and an expanded network of support services and jobs, particularly for underserved populations. Since it launched in 2015, this five-year, five-phase program resulted in training more than 900 community residents with an emphasis on health care alignment, diversity, career advancement and economic development.

The program gave Latino participants at NLEI not just hope, but a fair chance. “Within my community, people often get low-paying jobs or work that abuses them and dispirits them. But Advocate is very good at creating a bond with their employees,” Selena says.

She is currently enjoying her job as a medical assistant, but Selena plans to take advantage of Advocate’s continuing education opportunities and get a college degree. “We talk to leaders from hospitals and clinics. Starting out, I was very shy. But since then, it’s given me so much confidence.”

Advocate Aurora receives award from NLEI

NLEI recently awarded Advocate Aurora with the Healthcare Workforce Impact Award for transforming lives and increasing workforce diversity. Funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and led by Advocate Health Care, the Advocate Workforce Initiative is an innovative and strategic program aimed at aligning the skill set of current job seekers with high-growth middle-skill health care jobs in the Chicagoland area. The initiative developed and implement programming to create a pipeline of well-trained and industry-qualified candidates to secure employment within the region’s high-growth health care industry.

AWI has created a skilled talent pipeline, not only for Advocate Aurora but for the Chicagoland health care industry. It has generated more opportunities for people in underserved communities to enter high-growth occupations that provide livable wages and ultimately live better, healthier lives.