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Expanding Career Pathways and Connecting Americans to Healthcare Jobs

Building on Administration's job-driven training investments, employers launch Health Career Pathways, creating ladders of opportunity for Americans to middle-class jobs.

In the next decade, 3.5 million new U.S. jobs will be created in the healthcare sector, while today hundreds of thousands of entry-level and middle-skilled roles in healthcare are sitting unfilled.  These jobs will play a critical role as our system increasingly focuses on value-based care, care coordination, and other skilled services.  Tying these front-line jobs to clearly defined career pathways and training could create ladders of opportunity for millions of Americans to move from entry-level jobs into middle-class careers.

President Barack Obama greets doctors and nurses following his remarks about health care reform in the East Room of the White House, March 3, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Creating career pathways for more Americans to punch their tickets to the middle class has been a priority for the President from day one. That’s why we have focused competitive funding on incentivizing stronger employer and training provider partnerships.  For example, between 2011 and 2014, we invested $2 billion in Job-Driven Training Community College Grants (TAA-CCCT) to upgrade and create programs matched to local employer needs at nearly half of the nation’s community colleges, with a significant focus on the healthcare sector. 

Earlier this year, the White House, Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services brought together human resource executives from 21 leading healthcare systems to assess the impact of these investments on their companies. One of these employers, Dr. Ram Raju, President and CEO of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, noted, “As I think about transforming our system, one of the most critical elements for success is having high-quality, diverse talent that can engage patients in improving their health- not just providing routine health care services.”

Others provided examples of the positive impact that aligned partnerships with public training and workforce institutions had on their businesses and communities: Mercy Health West Michigan, a Regional Health Ministry of Trinity Health, reported that their efforts had reduced first-year turnover of new hires from 25% to 18% with a net annual savings of more than $3.2 million.

Since that convening, we have been working with a select group of employers to develop a plan to scale up and sustain progress. Today, in response to the Vice President’s call to action, over 50 organizations are coming together to launch the Health Careers Pathways initiative (HCP), a new privately-led effort that builds on a career pathways framework developed with a $19.6 million Job-Driven Training Community College Department of Labor grant to better match up training with employer needs at a more national scale.  HCP will launch with these three main goals:

  1. Working with healthcare employers to identify the jobs and skills most in-demand;
  2. Upgrading training to give students skills and experiences most needed by employers;
  3. Supporting job seekers, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, in advancing along career pathways to middle-class jobs.

The main components of the Health Career Pathways initiative include:

Healthcare Employer Task Force

The Advisory Board Company will convene leading healthcare employers to agree on common ways to describe and measure the skills needed for health care jobs to make it easier for training programs to target in-demand professional skills and to help workers translate their skills to move between different employers and roles. Task force members will develop and recommend a training and retention framework for entry- and middle-skilled healthcare workers. Members will convene regularly and will provide recommendations in a final report by the end of the year that will be widely disseminated to employers, training providers, policy makers, and other workforce organizations. While the full task force members will be named in the coming weeks, initial members include: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC); Sutter Health; New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation; Fairview Health Services; and Mercy Health West Michigan, a Regional Health Ministry of Trinity Health.

Health Career Pathways Communities

Brought together by Hope Street Group, seven founding HCP communities – composed of 15 healthcare systems, 11 community colleges and systems, 7 workforce boards, and 12 community-based organizations – will adopt a common career pathways model and support more than 1,000 disadvantaged Americans with training and placement into jobs with approaches like paid internships and career counseling. The National Association of Workforce Boards, Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, Office of Community College Research & Leadership, and Goodwill International Industries will all contribute to this effort.  Founding communities have made the following commitments:

  • Grand Rapids and Muskegon, MI.  Mercy Health West Michigan, a Regional Health Ministry of Trinity Health, will interview all candidates that meet agreed upon hiring agreements and are referred to them by the public workforce system, West Michigan Works, which will work with Grand Rapids, Muskegon, and Montcalm Community Colleges, NAACP and Goodwill to find and train up to 300 people per year for healthcare professions.
  • Minneapolis, MN.  Fairview Health Services is partnering with the Minneapolis Workforce Board, HealthForce Minnesota, and Minnesota Higher Education Institutions to offer 170 new nursing apprenticeships and hire and offer paid student internships to up to 200 low-income workers and students.
  • Denver, CO.  Centura Health, UC Health, Denver Health, Kaiser Permanente, SCL Health, HealthOne and Children’s Hospital of CO are working through the Greater Metro Denver Healthcare Partnership with the four metro Denver Regional Workforce Centers, the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, the CO Community College System, and others to more effectively define competencies, improve training and place 125 unemployed or underemployed individuals this year.
  • Bronx, Westchester and Hudson Valley, NY.  Montefiore Health System is committing to work with community colleges, local universities, labor-management training and education funds and community partners to offer 350 new unemployed or underemployed individuals paid internships over the next 5 years to improve candidates’ qualifications and competitiveness for permanent positions.
  • New York City, NY.  Northwell Health is promoting innovative, quality healthcare education and workforce development by working with Healthcare Career Advancement Program, Long Island STEM Hub and local colleges. They will expand veterans’ jobs opportunities in healthcare and will offer new work-based training opportunities for low-income individuals through partnerships with community organizations. 
  • Charlotte, NC.  Carolinas HealthCare System is partnering with Goodwill Industries, Charlotte Works, Urban League of Charlotte and Dress for Success, along with community colleges in the area to expand opportunities to prepare individuals for entry-level non-clinical roles. They will also work with the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System and the Mayor’s Youth Employment Program to provide up to 150 internships for local high school and college students.
  • Sacramento, CA. Dignity Health, Sutter Health, UC Davis Health System, and Kaiser Permanente will develop competency models for allied health and other critical professions that will lead to long-term career pathways.  By partnering with local workforce boards, intermediaries, and multiple community colleges, the collaborative aims to increase the regional supply of skilled health care professionals. Expanding this effort will result in increased employment in good jobs including for those with multiple barriers to employment. This work will inform the workforce agenda of the California Hospital Association and serve as a model and best practice for the state.

Ryan Burke is a Senior Policy Advisor for the National Economic Council.