New Orleans Works Trains People For Careers

May 20, 2014

New Orleans Works (NOW) is a workforce collaborative focused on building partnerships between employers, trainers, educators, and workers to connect low-skilled workers to jobs that provide immediate economic security and also prepare workers for professional growth and a focused career path.

Julia Pierce is a medical assistant at Oschner Baptist Medical Center.

“I’m going to send a message to Dr. Dan and see what he recommends with regards to your next step,” Julia tells a patient over the phone.  “I see the last thing he ordered was the ultrasound, and you had that done, so let’s see what he recommends you do next.”

As a medical assistant, Pierce spends most of her time on the phone calling patients and refilling their prescriptions, but she also sees a dozen or two patients every day.  She checks their blood pressure, temperatures, pulse, weight, height, and other vitals.

“I’m just going to get your blood pressure and pulse, and we’ll go from there,” she tells a patient. “Relax your arm for me.”

Pierce has been a medical assistant at Oschner since November.

“I had very limited medical experience,” says Pierce.  “I worked as a dental assistant some years ago, but my job prior to this was in administration with the District Attorneys Office in New Orleans.  I had some clerical and professional experience, but it was a dead end job for me.  I needed a career. That was a job; this is a career.”

Pierce broke into her career with the help of New Orleans Works, or NOW, a jobs initiative which partners with employers, trainers, and educators.  Here’s how it works: NOW identifies unfilled, entry-level jobs, and then trains people with the skills necessary to fill those jobs.

“I was working the Job1 Program, and my career advisor at the time told me about it.  I  mean you couldn’t pass it up.  I mean it was no costs associated with it. You just got to go with it,” Pierce laughs.  “And I’m really glad I did it.”

Ochsner Health System and Delgado Community College were New Orleans Works’ first partners.  At Delgado, Julia Pierce and her 49 cohorts took courses for 16 weeks in things like medical terminology, anatomy, and clerical skills.

“We started classes at 8 o’clock,” says Pierce, “and they lasted all day until 3 o’clock.”

In the middle of the program, they started doing clinical residencies at Oschner.

“We’d do it every Friday,” recalls Pierce.  “We’d do three at one particular clinic, and then rotate and do three at another.  So we got experience in internal medicine and you got experience at two specialty clinics.”

The program was tailored to Oschner’s way of practicing medicine.  Pierce and her fellow graduates were all offered jobs at Oschner clinics.  Pierce started her job three days after graduation.

But, this isn’t Pierce’s last career stop.  She’s back at Delgado studying nursing, and in January, she hopes to move to the nursing program. Pierce says being trained as a medical assistant gave her a solid foundation.

“It’s an excellent career,” says Pierce.  “I would love to stay in it.  I love my doctor, and I love this clinic.  I would love to be forever, but I think I can do more.  But it’s going to be hard for me to leave though.  I love it here.  I love it here.”

Written by Eve Abrams for the Community IMPACT Series and produced by WWNO in partnership with the Greater New Orleans Foundation.