- The Washington Times - Friday, January 26, 2001

The District of Columbia is teaming with the nation's largest pharmaceutical chain to offer the first regional public/ private job placement hub in the nation.

The CVS/South Capitol Career Center, a joint venture between CVS/pharmacy and the District's Department of Employment Services (DOES), opened its doors yesterday for a crush of residents eager to learn about its opportunities.

"This partnership is about moving people into careers that will foster self-sufficiency," said Mayor Anthony A. Williams at yesterday's grand opening.

"Job training is the ticket out of poverty and the way to financial stability."

The center, at 4049 South Capitol St. SW, provides a number of job-related free services. Visitors can surf the Internet for help-wanted sites, research job publications or confer with employment counselors.

They also can sign up to be trained by the drugstore chain as pharmacy technicians, shift supervisors or assistant managers. The company projects that it will train more than 1,000 people each year at the center where six sleek, Internet-ready computers greet visitors. Video-conferencing technology also is available in one of the building's futuristic meeting rooms.

A mock pharmacy encompasses the back portion of the building, allowing trainees to develop film in a working lab, arrange greeting cards and learn the intricacies of pharmaceutical sales.

The center, aided in part by the Welfare-to-Work Partnership, will have 10 full-time city workers plus four full-time CVS employees and up to 12 part-time staff members on hand.

Officials wouldn't discuss the budget for the center or its operation. Costs are to be split evenly between the city and the pharmaceutical giant.

The partially completed center has been active for weeks, officials said, helping some 400 residents begin job searches.

One of its first clients, Anita Miller Tolliver, 36, said the program taught her as much about herself as about pharmaceutical work.

"You have to want something, not just take it because it's there. I'm in it because I wanted it," said Mrs. Miller Tolliver, now a certified pharmacy technician working at a District CVS store.

For Stephen M. Wing, director of government programs with CVS/pharmacy, the collaboration strikes a practical, as well as philanthropic, chord.

"We're looking for good people, and that's what we're finding," Mr. Wing said.

Since November 1996, his company has hired about 10,000 people off the welfare rolls, 7,000 of whom still are employed at CVS.

The drugstore chain, which has about 50 outlets in the District, hired 1,423 local workers last year.

In addition to its copious job resources, the center will provide free health seminars, medical screenings and classes teaching English as a Second Language and helping students attain general education development diplomas.

Rodney J. Carroll, president and CEO of the Welfare-to-Work Partnership, said the center will "tap an untapped resource."

"There's never been a worker shortage. There is a skills shortage," Mr. Carroll said.

This isn't the first time good-intentioned people created a job-training locale, he said. "But at the end of the training, there weren't any jobs."

That won't be the case in Southwest. "You have the opportunity to advance [with CVS/pharmacy]. That's critical."

Gregg Irish, director of the center, said it will become an "impetus for economic development" for the distressed region.

"Everybody's going to try to replicate this model." Mr. Irish predicted.

He hinted that another center would be opening soon along Connecticut Avenue in the District, but wouldn't offer specifics.

CVS/pharmacy plans to team with officials in Atlanta and New York in the coming months to provide similar career services in those cities.

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