With a potential worker shortage looming, Kaiser Permanente and the Service Employees International Union are taking steps to grow their own.
On Wednesday, the health care giant and the union jointly announced Futuro Health, a new organization seeded with $130 million from Kaiser to pay for training of allied health workers. The investment, representatives from both organizations said in a joint statement, is expected to pay for the training of 10,000 current and future allied health professionals in jobs such as licensed vocational nursing, medical coding, health information technology, radiology and laboratory services.
The endeavor is an outgrowth of the most recent round of contract talks between the two parties and is intended to expand and also mature the health care workforce. Funding will be available to help people gain entry-level certifications and also advance their careers.
Van Ton-Quinlivan, who formerly guided the workforce thinking for California’s community colleges, is the new nonprofit’s first executive director.
She said Wednesday afternoon that the investment in workforce training is not intended to benefit Kaiser alone but rather the industry as a whole. The idea, she said, is to identify “pathways” that workers can follow that provide both initial entry and a road map for advancement.
The idea, she added, is to embrace a more modern approach to learning that is more directly focused on skills that are immediately usable and ever refreshed.
“Today, education is not a universal inoculation in your 20s, it’s a series of booster shots to keep up with the pace of change in the industry,” Ton-Quinlivan said. “What’s interesting about this model is that it’s not necessarily coupled with an individual employer, because we know that health care workers will change employers several times during their careers.”
Though additional pathways will be identified, the first three are focused on training medical coders, medical assistants and care coordinators in cooperation with Western Governor’s University, an online school based in Salt Lake City. An initial group of applicants will be selected to enter those programs in the spring.
Plans call for licensed vocational nurse and health care information technologies pathways to be developed this year in partnership with other schools. Futuro, Ton-Quinlivan said, plans to partner with existing schools rather than create its own.
Working with the union, she added, is critical because the SEIU represents about 100,000 service workers in the health care sector.
“Since their members work in health care in these types of jobs already, I think they will be able to help bring forward good applicants,” Ton-Quinlivan said.
Those interested in applying for or learning more about Futuro Health’s future opportunities can visit its website at futurohealth.org. A free newsletter is also available to keep interested parties up to date on new developments.