St. Luke’s and PA CareerLink Lehigh Valley join forces to offer on-the-job training to low-income students

Cris Collingwood//January 19, 2022

St. Luke’s and PA CareerLink Lehigh Valley join forces to offer on-the-job training to low-income students

Cris Collingwood//January 19, 2022

Genesis Rodriguez practices applying a tourniquet to Lexi Krim’s arm as part of their phlebotomy training. PHOTO/PROVIDED –

St. Luke’s has joined with PA CareerLink Lehigh Valley to offer an on-the-job training program geared toward low-income workers. 

The program places students in paid, entry-level, hard-to-fill, high turnover positions while giving them a chance for a growth-oriented job in the health network, according to a St. Luke’s press release. 

The program, which started in the fall, has given Lexi Krim a position as a phlebotomist.  

Since September, the 21-year-old single Mom, from Catasauqua, had been learning to draw blood at St. Luke’s Bethlehem. She is enthused about “learning new skills I didn’t have experience in,” enjoying classes that taught her about human anatomy and physiology, along with the proper way to insert a needle safely into someone’s vein to withdraw their blood. 

“I love to learn,” said Krim, who studied health occupations at Lehigh Career and Technical Institute and previously provided personal care to residents at Gracedale Nursing Home. She hopes to start nursing school at St. Luke’s next year. 

OJT was conceived by Carol Kuplen, president of St. Luke’s Bethlehem Campus and network chief nursing officer, and Victoria Montero, network manager, Health Equity Initiatives in Community Health.  

Across the Valley at St. Luke’s Allentown Campus, Laury Gonzalez, also 21 and also a single mom, is a new employee in the hospital’s Sterile Processing Department. She had spent the fall learning the six steps to decontaminate, clean and sterilize instruments for surgery and other invasive procedures. 

 Just a few months ago, Gonzalez, of Allentown, was unloading tractor-trailers at Lowe’s Hardware. Gonzalez also wants to pursue a nursing degree at St. Luke’s. 

“These young women have such motivation to learn and succeed,” said Jackie Finelli, the OJT coordinator and the network’s coordinator of Adolescent Career Mentoring Initiatives.  

St. Luke’s and CareerLink received 200 applicants for the nine positions they plan to fill for this first-year pilot.  The jobs were posted on the network and CareerLink’s websites and promoted through the Hispanic Center of the Lehigh Valley.  

According to Liz Taylor, director, Laboratory Outreach Services, this OJT program is helping pave the way for a new St. Luke’s new School of Phlebotomy. The hospital is recruiting OJT candidates to enter the first school’s class.  

The first OJT employees have come a long way since passing a rigorous selection process and joining St. Luke’s initially without experience in their new role, said Finelli.  

 “They are filling critical job openings here, where there is often a shortage of applicants, which is also making a difference in their lives,” said Finelli.