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Expanding Access to the Middle Class for our Country’s Healthcare Workforce

Report released this week by the Health Career Pathways Task Force offers concrete strategies and recommendations to build a more robust pipeline for healthcare jobs.

Creating career pathways for more Americans to punch their tickets to the middle class has been a priority for the President from day one. One of the best ways to do that is to create stronger partnerships between training providers and employers, so workers are getting skills they can put to use in jobs that are available now.  That’s why we have focused competitive grant funding on partnerships that work – like the $2 billion the Department of Labor invested in Community College grants 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.

To build on this work, eight months ago, the White House announced the Health Career Pathways Initiative, a private-sector led effort to create ladders of opportunity for Americans to middle-class healthcare jobs. The healthcare sector is one of the fastest-growing areas in our economy, and hundreds of thousands of entry-level and middle-skill jobs are currently waiting to be filled.  The Health Career Pathways Initiative was developed with two key components: an employer-led task force charged with identifying strategies to expand career pathways, and regional pilots to build the necessary partnerships in communities across America.

Today, the Health Career Pathways Task Force, which was convened by the Advisory Board Company, is releasing a comprehensive report, “Paving Health Career Pathways to the Middle Class.”  The report details the Task Force’s recommendations 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.  

The Task Force’s report from the health care employer and training community presents insights derived from an extensive research and discussion process led by the Advisory Board. 

The report highlights a few key recommendations:

  • Current Approach to Entry-Level Healthcare Employment Must Better Align with Employer Needs: Surveys with companies showed broad national agreement on the competencies required for entry-level healthcare roles, but challenges in using that agreement as the basis to match up curricula to hiring needs for many employers across regional economies. These challenges include a lack of clear feedback loops between employers and educators to ensure that the skills students are developing meet the needs of local employers; and the need for clearer educational pathways for workers to advance from entry-level healthcare roles.
  • Traditional Entry-Level Roles Present Most Immediate Opportunity for Job Growth: The Task Force also concluded that efforts to bolster the entry-level workforce will yield greatest value if focused on “traditional” entry-level roles, such as nursing assistants, pharmacy technicians, and medical assistants. Their analysis shows that in recent years these jobs have been growing at rates as high as 38 percent for home health aides and 23 percent for medical assistants. New roles are emerging as the delivery system moves more toward population health and consumer-driven models, but the immediate opportunity to develop career pathways lies with common roles that healthcare employers are having trouble filling today.
  • Regional Collaboration Necessary to Break Down Traditional Silos That Pose Barriers to Success: According to the Task Force, the main role of the regional partnerships is to co-define the skills needed for success in jobs across multiple employers, so that multiple training programs in a region can respond in concert rather than on their own. The report also indicates that these collaborations should be built across the community, involving multiple employers, educators, and community stakeholders to ensure efficiency and consistent quality.
  • Bolstering Employer-Educator Partnerships Essential to Match Training to In-Demand Skills: Effective partnerships between healthcare employers and educators are critical to enabling more consistent advancement into higher paying roles. More partnerships with local schools could lead to better training.

While the Task Force report offers practical solutions for employers, communities, and policy makers seeking more effective strategies for developing healthcare career pathways, it represents just one step in this Administration’s ongoing effort to attract, train, and retain qualified workers in the healthcare field.  We extended minimum wage and overtime protections to home healthcare workers, giving nearly 2 million workers the same basic protections already provided to most U.S. workers – including those who perform the same jobs in nursing homes. We invested in new models of apprenticeship, to expand this proven earn-while-you-learn strategy to well-paying healthcare roles.  And earlier this year, we announced a commitment from Hope Street Group to develop regional pilots to implement competency-based career pathways in the healthcare sector. The pilot programs will provide an evidence base and practical experience to inform future recommendations and other workforce-related initiatives.

These efforts collectively form a strong foundation to better prepare our workforce for job opportunities in the health care sector – an effort that will pay off both in economic growth and in improved service delivery. 

Below is a list of the Task Force Members:

Ascension Health St. Louis, Missouri
Banner Health Phoenix, Arizona
California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office Sacramento, California
Carolinas Healthcare Charlotte, North Carolina
Community Colleges of Spokane Spokane, Washington
Corporation for a Skilled Workforce Ann Arbor, Michigan
Fairview Health Services Minneapolis, Minnesota
Goodwill Industries International Rockville, Maryland
Hope Street Group Washington, D.C.
Massachusetts General Hospital Boston, Massachusetts
MedStar Montgomery Olney, Maryland
Mercy Health West Michigan, a Regional Health Ministry of Trinity Health West Michigan
Metrics Reporting Inc. Byron Center, Michigan
Northern Virginia Community College Annandale, Virginia
Norton Healthcare Louisville, Kentucky
NYC Health + Hospitals New York, New York
SCL Health Broomfield, CO
SSM Health St. Louis, Missouri
Sutter Health Sacramento, California
The Advisory Board Company Washington, D.C.
Trinity Health Livonia, Michigan
UPMC Pittsburgh, PA