CVS updates Congress on Rx career program

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WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Caremark Corp. has surpassed its 10-year Pathways to Pharmacy program goal of introducing 1 million youths to a potential pharmacy career.

The drug store and pharmacy benefits company said Wednesday that under the initiative, launched in 2000 with nonprofit group America’s Promise, it also has met its target of $4 million in summer internship wages for high school students during that time span.

CVS Caremark reported the progress to Congress Wednesday in testimony for a Joint Economic Committee hearing titled, "Avoiding a Lost Generation: How to Minimize the Impact of the Great Recession on Young Workers." The committee was chaired by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D., N.Y.), with Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) serving as vice chair.

The hearing was called as part of a congressional effort to address the impact that the economic downturn has had on younger workers. Last month, one out of four teens ages 16 to 19 was unemployed, and one out of six younger adults ages 20 to 24 was also jobless, according to the company.

Created by CVS Caremark and America’s Promise to encourage younger workers to consider a pharmacy career, Pathways to Pharmacy is one of several CVS Caremark programs to receive national attention for its significant impact on workforce education in cities across the country.

The summer internship component includes 1,800 teenagers in more than 40 cities annually, CVS Caremark said.. The six- to eight-week internships include classroom education on customer service and pharmacy science and hands-on experience at CVS/pharmacy stores. Some programs also include orientation sessions at local colleges of pharmacy.

After their internships, students are eligible to continue working at CVS/pharmacy and to work toward national certification as pharmacy technicians.

Lisa Bisaccia, senior vice president and chief human resources officer  at CVS Caremark, noted that the thousands of talented and hard-working colleagues who have joined the company through programs like Pathways to Pharmacy now are contributing directly to the company’s success.

"Our investments in training and in workforce development have helped us meet the need for good jobs in the communities we serve while also meeting our own need for colleagues who can deliver the best customer service in our industry," Bisaccia said in a statement. "Having seen the impact that Pathways to Pharmacy and other workforce initiatives have had for our company, we are happy to share what we have learned along the way with Congress and with the business community."

To illustrate the impact of programs like Pathways to Pharmacy, CVS Caremark director of workforce initiatives Steve Wing told the committee about a young pharmacy technician at a CVS store in the Chicago area who came to the company through a Pathways to Pharmacy internship in 2006, the summer before her senior year in high school.

"Veronica, who is now 20, fell in love with the profession of pharmacy," Wing explained. "She is now a junior at the University of Illinois at Chicago, with definitive plans to enroll in a four-year pharmacy school after she graduates. She has worked at the same CVS/pharmacy store since her internship, progressing from intern to pharmacy sales associate to certified pharmacy technician, her current position. Veronica’s parents, who never graduated high school, are extremely proud of her. And as powerful as her story is, Veronica is one of countless outstanding CVS/pharmacy employees who came to us via Pathways to Pharmacy and stayed with us for years."


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