Chauncy Lennon

By Chauncy Lennon
Head of Workforce Initiatives for JPMorgan Chase & Co. Head of Workforce Initiatives for JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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Boosting Skills Is Key to Health Care Workforce

The U.S. economy is adding jobs and closing in on full employment. All of this is good news but it can also pose a challenge for businesses that need to hire workers to keep growing. This challenge is particularly acute in one industry – health care, which is projected to add 2.3 million jobs by 2024 as the population ages and demand for care increases.

Comprising roughly 18 percent of the American economy, health care is the fastest-growing industry nationally – even faster than technology. Employment in the sector is estimated to grow by 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, and rapidly evolving technology means that many of these newly created jobs require a higher skill level than ever before. As a result, the nation needs to double down on training workers to fill these roles or face critical worker shortages. Today, the health care industry has nearly 1.1 million positions that remain unfilled.

With so much attention being paid to the loss of traditional "good jobs" in sectors such manufacturing – jobs that pay well but only require a high school degree – we overlook the growth of new "good jobs" in sectors such as health care and information technology. The key distinction is that the ticket to entry for today's good job is a high school degree and some post-secondary training. These "middle skill" jobs pay good wages, and typically are the first step on a career pathway to middle class financial security and long-term economic stability. Community health workers, cardiovascular technologists and dental hygienists are the types of middle-skill jobs that pay, on average, hourly wages of $17.45, $26.38 and $34.77, respectively, but are going unfilled because not enough workers have the skills.

Neither employers nor our education and training systems have done enough to address the problem of equipping workers with the training they need to succeed. Without a solution, employers will continue to struggle to find the talent they need to be competitive and millions of job seekers and workers will lose out on opportunities for advancement.

The good news is there's a smart way forward in adequately preparing job seekers to join the skilled workforce. We are seeing increasing evidence of programs in the health care sector that are successfully creating a pipeline of workers with the skills employers require, and what distinguishes these success stories is that employers are at the helm, directly collaborating with the education and training providers to bring in qualified workers.

Here's a good example of how this is working: To lower costs and improve quality, 25 health care employers created CareerSTAT, a network to develop and share best practices around training and hiring "frontline" workers – the nursing assistants, housekeepers, medical assistants, community health workers, dietary service workers and others who make up approximately 50 percent of the health care workforce. CareerSTAT's new approach emphasizes hiring from local communities and the incumbent workforce, skill development and work-based learning, and helping employees get on internal career pathways.

Another bright spot is the growing number of employers partnering with education and training providers to better match training curricula to the needs of employers in a given sector. In Chicago, JPMorgan Chase has provided $3 million to Advocate Charitable Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Advocate Health Care, Illinois' largest health system, to partner with City Colleges of Chicago, the Cook County Workforce Investment Board and community-based organizations to recruit and train individuals interested in high-demand health care careers. Program participants will have access to clinical, work-based learning and paid internships at Advocate sites across the Chicago metro area, positioning them to fill vital higher-paying jobs in the health care industry, including patient service representatives, certified medical assistants, phlebotomists, and other skilled technical roles.

Shrinking the gulf between employers with unfilled positions and Americans looking for work is good for job seekers and for the American economy. It is that rarest of win-win opportunities. We all stand to benefit.

This piece is originally published on U.S. News.


About the Author:
Chauncy Lennon is the Head of Workforce Initiatives for JPMorgan Chase & Co.