Highmark Health invests in Pittsburgh’s young talent with ‘Straight to Business’ program

Local high school graduates will earn bachelor’s degrees tuition-free while working full-time


Highmark Health on July 21 announced a new talent pipeline program which aims to create a positive economic impact by making education and employment more accessible to diverse communities. The program, “Straight to Business,” will launch with a group of 10 high school graduates who will be gainfully employed at Highmark Health while obtaining bachelor’s degrees, tuition-free.

In partnership with Gallup, Purdue University Global, and local educational partners, this is a unique program that will nurture young talent and build a future of diverse leadership at Highmark Health. The students accepted to the program will begin onboarding with a 9-week immersion experience at Highmark Health this summer. Their first semester at Purdue Global will begin in the fall of 2021, where they will be earning degrees in health administration or business.

“With Straight to Business, Highmark Health is investing in its community and developing future leaders, with no student debt upon graduation. This sets them on a path to a bright future as dynamic leaders that reflect the diversity of Highmark Health’s customers, members and patients,” said Larry Kleinman, EVP, Chief Human Resources Officer, Highmark Health, in a statement to the New Pittsburgh Courier. “Straight to Business is one of many steps Highmark Health is taking to level the playing field and develop talent at all skill levels.”

In the Pittsburgh region, there are significant challenges for diverse students to access affordable education, higher than normal rates of unemployment for diverse youth, and substantial underrepresentation of minority groups among professionals who work in the health care field. As a Gallup Change and Transformation Award winner for two consecutive years, Highmark Health is proud to be a leader in addressing these issues with two nationally recognized organizations.

“Highmark Health is a very bold American corporate citizen,” said Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO, Gallup. “Today marks the first day in the history of America that a US company has hired a cohort of promising future diverse leaders straight from high school—straight to business – including a fully paid college degree on the job. This fixes old broken hiring systems through early identification of high-potential leaders and accelerated development.”

Highmark Health is dedicated to ensuring a smooth transition process for the students as they learn the ins and outs of the working world. As part of the program, students will receive a dedicated Program Manager to guide them through benefits, finances, transportation, and other needs. In addition, they will receive personal laptops for their studies at Purdue Global.

“Our partnership with Gallup and the Straight to Business initiative is important to Purdue Global, and we are excited to now join forces with Highmark Health,” said Jeffrey Buck, Purdue Global vice president and dean of the School of Business & Information Technology., in a statement “This collaboration draws on the distinctive strengths and core values shared by the respective organizations. Most importantly, it provides a real benefit to young people by reimagining the traditional pathway for accessing the benefits that result from work experience and post-secondary education.”

Highmark Health partnered with community organizations such as Imani Christian Academy, Crossroads Foundation, Fund for Advancement of Minorities through Education (FAME), Urban Pathways Charter School, Negro Emergency Educational Drive (NEED), Westinghouse High School, Nazareth Prep, City Charter High School, Pittsburgh Promise, and the Neighborhood Academy to identify Associates for the inaugural Straight to Business cohort.

(TOP PHOTO) MEMBERS OF THE NEW COHORT OF RECENT PITTSBURGH-AREA HIGH SCHOOL GRADS taking place in Highmark’s “Straight to Business” initiative.

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