Rafael Castañeda is SVP of Strategic Partnerships & Workforce Development at MedCerts and was the Dean of Education at CBD College.
The worker shortage healthcare organizations face is not news, but what perhaps is surprising is that some of the pressure to fill these jobs is coming from healthcare workers themselves. Healthcare workers, stressed from the chronic shortages, are pressuring employers to solve the staffing gaps. So far, there have been 115 strikes in this year alone.
And while stressed employees and shortages of care are never good news, the creative solutions that are now addressing the shortage are. Several workforce development models—long established in the skilled trades—are proving their worth in healthcare while simultaneously serving as models for other industries facing labor shortages.
Three models are particularly promising to healthcare, and though each works a little differently, they have each proven successful in expanding the applicant pool, lowering the cost of hiring and retention and creating a homegrown talent pipeline. With the growing push for widespread adoption of skills-based hiring over degree-based hiring, the timing couldn’t be better for industries with persistent worker shortages to consider these nontraditional strategies.
The Train-And-Hire Model: Nearly Limitless Potential
Thanks to advances in education technology and the booming online training and credentialing marketplace, employers in many industries—healthcare, IT, construction, finance, data analytics and others—can now “grow their own” talent.
In this model, the employer vets applicants based on aptitudes, interests and attitudes instead of existing credentials or previous related experience. Once selected, applicants take an online training program selected and paid for by the employer. When trainees complete the program satisfactorily, they enter a new job with the company they’ve trained with, and they are set off on a professional career path. Depending on the employer, trainees may be asked to commit to working for the employer for a minimum time period in exchange for the employer’s investment.
There are hundreds of online training programs. The key is to choose a quality program with high engagement and high completion rates. Those that prepare trainees to take industry-recognized certification exams generally cost between $2,000 and $5,000, depending on the industry.
Registered Apprenticeships: An Established Idea Takes New Shapes
In 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) began to invest more heavily in growing registered apprenticeships in industries other than the skilled trades (where such programs have been the norm for decades). American Apprenticeship Initiative (AAI) grants totaling $175 million were a resounding success for employers and apprentices, according to an independent evaluation released last month.
Now, apprenticeships have been growing nationally across multiple sectors ever since. The DoL’s list of “apprentice-able” jobs now includes manufacturing, agriculture, construction, cybersecurity, education, energy, financial services, healthcare, hospitality, telecoms and transportation. A number of states have ramped up support for registered apprenticeship programs as well, including Washington, California, Kansas and Texas.
Similar to the train-and-hire model, apprenticeships provide no-cost career training to applicants who can thrive in these programs with zero previous experience. However, unlike the train-and-hire model, apprentices are not necessarily guaranteed a job upon successful completion.
While any company can implement its own train-and-hire program for any of its chronically understaffed jobs, the registered apprenticeship model is a more structured and established method for addressing larger workforce development challenges. And with a long history of success in growing talent pipelines, registered apprenticeship programs also have access to implementation guidance, operational assistance and even grant opportunities from regional or state workforce development boards or federal labor initiatives.
Organizations investing in apprenticeships report considerable benefits after as little as one year. According to the evaluation of DoL’s AAI grants, employers who started new apprenticeships with their grant awards saw a 144% return on every dollar invested in apprenticeship programs, and they reported many indirect benefits, as well.
High School CTE: A K-To-Career Pipeline
This model is similar to apprenticeships but begins in high school, with a Career and Technical Education (CTE) program addition tailored specifically for career fields with worker shortages in the school’s community.
Beginning their junior year, students begin classes for their chosen program—a Pennsylvania pilot program launched by my company, for example, offers a medical assistant pathway through online instruction delivered in school classrooms. When it’s time for hands-on learning, students work in clinical settings under a mentor from the local healthcare system partner.
Elsewhere, some health systems have partnered directly with local high schools to start CTE programs of their own, such as HCA Healthcare’s programs in four Nashville high schools. Students’ classroom learning, followed by hands-on clinical training at HCA facilities, culminates in certification exams for career jobs as a certified clinical medical assistant or a certified EKG tech.
These programs often cost employers very little beyond designating staff to mentor the students. The school districts’ budgets for CTE often cover much of the cost of online instruction.
The result, though, is priceless: Students graduating high school with an industry-recognized certification, workplace training and a built-in relationship with their program’s healthcare partner. The students can enter their new career immediately after graduation, and in cases where the online certification bears college credits, apply their training toward a future college degree.
An additional benefit of innovative hiring solutions, one that is sometimes overlooked in the urgency to fill jobs, is that programs like these contribute to the broader shift in workforce development; fewer companies are requiring college degrees and instead are accepting alternative verification of skills like stackable credentials and industry-recognized certifications. This shift has and continues to create new opportunities for legions of people, pathways to improved earning potential and careers for people without four-year college degrees. These three models—and dozens more—are fine examples of recruitment programs that broaden the pool of applicants, address employment trends and improve career prospects.
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