Our History

“We literally stacked our hands together across the aisle and said we’re going to make this happen.”

Pamela Paulk, former head of Human Relations, Johns Hopkins Health System

The Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (BACH) traces its founding to a conversation held on a train back in 2002. Karen Sitnick, then director of the Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Economic Development; Diane Bell-McKoy, then head of the Baltimore City Empowerment Zone; Pamela Paulk, then head of human resources for the Johns Hopkins Health System; and Patrice Cromwell, then program officer with Open Society Institute-Baltimore. While returning from a national forum workforce development, they discussed the challenges and opportunities within Baltimore’s workforce system.

All agreed that the city needed a systematic, employer-led approach to fill critical shortages at Baltimore-area hospitals. Meeting employers’ needs and creating new job and advancement opportunities for lower-skilled workers would require the collaboration of a range of public and private institutions.

“We literally stacked our hands together across the aisle and said we’re going to make this happen.”
Pamela Paulk, former head of Human Relations, Johns Hopkins Health System

Bringing together key players

Other key players, including the Abell Foundation and the Baltimore City Workforce Investment Board, had also been considering how to capitalize on the hiring power of area hospitals to create new economic opportunities for lower-income, lower-skilled workers.

Momentum from those efforts, coupled with the discussion on the train, led to the creation of the Baltimore Healthcare Coalition, which included representatives from area hospitals, area foundations, federal and state agencies, educational institutions, and other nonprofit groups.

Mapping careers

An early Coalition project created a database to determine the number of entry-level job positions in Baltimore City hospitals that required an associate degree or less and identify career pathways leading to employment in high-growth positions. The Maryland Hospital Association provided job growth, vacancy and turnover data for each job cluster, and the Coalition matched the database information with known educational programs in the Baltimore area.

Short- and long-term initiatives were developed to build the skills of Baltimore residents and develop a pipeline for qualified workers to fill or advance in critical shortages at Baltimore-area health systems.

One of the first initiatives was to create “career maps” that outlined how lower-paid hospital workers could move into better-paying jobs, with information about the training and education needed. Career maps showed that hospitals often had similar job positions with the same training and educational requirements, and the map became a tool for hospitals and workforce organizations looking to prepare people for hospital jobs.

Creating BACH

BACH was founded in 2005 to focus on area hospitals’ hiring needs and the job opportunities they offered. Within a few years, BACH had expanded its scope to include other healthcare organizations, including long-term care facilities.

In the years since BACH was founded, thousands of residents from the most disadvantaged Baltimore neighborhoods have been screened; more than 1,600 have been offered training, career coaching, and other services; and 73% of those who have completed their program have been hired for or promoted to critically needed healthcare jobs. One program, the BACH Fellows model, which exposes high school students to the healthcare field, has been replicated by nonprofits around the country.

Through training, coaching, and apprenticeship programs, BACH participants have moved into well-paying careers that support their families, enrich their neighborhoods, and contribute to the success of their employers and the health of their patients.

In addition to current programs BACH has managed a variety of other programs over the years, based on need and as funding has allowed.


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