ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Highmark Blue Shield says a program aimed at getting people back to work was a major success.

In 2011, Highmark launched a $2.4 million workforce initiative. It handed out cash grants to 31 non-profit organizations across the state, including four in the Lehigh Valley, to help unemployed and under-employed residents.

Officials announced Wednesday morning the outcome of the initiative at the Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living in Allentown. They said nearly 6,000 people were served and almost 800 received direct employment as a result of the program.

"We wanted people to be able to get past some of the barriers that they face in their life and that sometimes hold people back from finding those jobs, and that's really what we found this program was able to accomplish," said Evan Frazier, senior vice president, Highmark Blue Shield.

Highmark said the initiative helped create relationships and programs that will generate even more jobs in the future.