The voices of Urban Institute's researchers and staff
April 2, 2017

Health care employers play a key role in improving worker skills for more rewarding jobs

The health care sector is booming, and with that boom comes job opportunities for workers at all skill levels. Demand is high: in New York, Florida, and Minnesota, just to name a few states, employers are having trouble filling open positions.

Many of these jobs are entry level, but demand is also strong for middle-skill jobs (like radiologic or cardiovascular technologists), which require some postsecondary training and education, but not necessarily a four-year degree. As baby boomers reach retirement age and require more care, middle-skill job growth in the health care industry is projected to continue. 

The health care industry is ripe with opportunities to build pathways for lower-skilled workers to advance to middle-skill jobs. Many local public workforce agencies and nonprofit groups are developing programs that help workers tap into these pathways. These organizations almost universally want to partner with employers, but can have a hard time knowing how.

Many health care employers already do this work, so we interviewed more than a dozen of them and their workforce development partners to understand why and how employers build these training pipelines and to help other organizations better engage employers.

We found that employers are motivated to provide these education and training opportunities for new and incumbent employees to address worker shortages. Many also said they were motivated by a desire to employ people from the local community and build a diverse and culturally competent workforce.

Moreover, employers are setting themselves apart from competitors by investing in worker training. Giving employees access to training opportunities increases retention in high-turnover positions and ensures that employees have the right skills for the job.

The employers we interviewed stressed that they play a critical role in building middle-skill training initiatives because they know what skills are needed in the workforce. But employers often collaborate with public-sector or community-based partners who are better positioned to provide assessment screening, classroom training, or academic and personal support services to jobseekers.  

Some employers reported that an effective and efficient way to become involved in middle-skill initiatives was to work through established regional workforce partnership groups, which are collaborations of employers and community partners with a common interest in local workforce issues.

For example, the Boston Healthcare Careers Consortium is an employer-led health care industry partnership. It convenes employers, educators, and workforce system partners to promote health care–related education and training opportunities that are efficient, effective, and aligned with industry needs. Upon identifying the need for greater systems alignment and collaboration among workforce partners, higher education, and employers, the consortium embarked on the “From Classroom to Employment” project, where employer members and consortium staff provided wraparound supports to students and faculty, better connected graduates to jobs, and collected robust data about the jobs program graduates were getting.

We also found that employers can leverage even small amounts of funding from partners to provide training and education opportunities for workers. Philanthropic organizations can provide seed funding to launch these training initiatives.

One example is the Career Network: Healthcare program, which provides low-income, entry-level workers job training, a four-week internship at Montefiore Health System, and exposure to the workplace culture. Once graduates are employed, the program helps them reenroll in community college to move up the career ladder. Through a JPMorgan Chase Foundation grant, the Phipps Neighborhood Development Corporation provided a modest initial investment to Montefiore for staff time to help develop the program. The funding brought Montefiore to the table, signaling to them that Phipps was a serious and committed partner. This type of leveraged funding is particularly important in the current environment of cost containment in health care, when resources are limited and funding for new training is scarce.  

Understanding these perspectives and employer roles can be useful for other health care employers, intermediaries, workforce organizations, and potential funders to consider when developing their own middle-skill job pipelines.

Photo by Reza Estakhrian/Getty Images

SHARE THIS PAGE

As an organization, the Urban Institute does not take positions on issues. Experts are independent and empowered to share their evidence-based views and recommendations shaped by research.