The Inland Northwest’s landscape encourages an environment of diverse industries, from health care to agriculture to technologies. While each sector has its own characteristics, they are all facing the same workforce challenges.
It’s easy to blame the current climate on the pandemic. But many of these issues have been bubbling beneath the surface for more than a decade.
The challenge now for organizational leaders is to align our workforce efforts to create a community wide impact that lasts for generations.
That’s exactly what Providence is committed to doing. As the second largest employer in Spokane County, we are driving innovative, inclusive workforce development that will lead to a healthier economic future for all.
It starts with rethinking the workforce pipeline. We cannot wait until people are juniors or seniors in college to approach them about careers within our organizations. Providence caregivers are connecting with students as young as elementary school to show them what a career in health care looks like.
For example, Providence and Spokane NAACP Health Committee recently hosted 25 Rogers High School students on the Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center campus for a hands-on educational experience. Students learned from Providence caregivers, including nurses and surgical technicians, at interactive learning stations.
For some students, it was their first time envisioning a future in health care. For others, it cemented a lifelong passion and gave them new connections to support their plans and it exposed students of color from one of the state’s most economically challenged neighborhoods to an industry that needs a more diverse, and inclusive workforce.
We must learn from each other’s experiences to create equal opportunities for advancement. That is why Providence is implementing innovative programs that remove barriers to higher education.
Providence has several earn-while-you-learn programs, so people don’t have to choose between a paycheck and an education. Those opportunities are strategically aligned with specialties that are urgently needed within our hospitals and across the health care landscape, including certified nursing assistants, paramedics, phlebotomists, and more.
We are bringing people in at entry-level positions, then continuing to support their personal and career development through college and university tuition assistance programs, leadership training, and volunteer opportunities.
When people feel seen and supported, they are more likely to stay with an organization long term.
We saw that with a Rogers High School graduate, who started as a volunteer with Providence when she was a teenager. That experience inspired her to obtain her CNA license through a Providence workforce development program. She used that training to work in our hospital while she completed nursing school. Upon graduation, she accepted a full-time registered nurse position at Providence Holy Family Hospital. What a full-circle moment it was as she returned to the same hospital where she was once a volunteer, in the same community where she grew up.
While we hope all our caregivers stay with us for their careers, we know this is a competitive market. We also see success when our innovative skills training programs fill much-needed positions across the region.
With more CNAs in long-term care facilities, there are more options for patients waiting in the hospital for a safe place for continuing care. As ambulance services grow in demand, so does the need for more paramedics and emergency medical technicians. Adding training opportunities for these specialties expands the labor pool, leading to better patient care.
If a rising tide lifts all boats, we are glad to be part of that tide.
But we can’t do this alone; no one can. That’s why it is critical that organizations develop diverse partnerships within their own walls and outside of them.
For Providence, it’s partnering with Spokane Public Schools’ NEWTech Skill Center to give students opportunities for work-based learning at our hospitals. It’s working with World Relief to pair newly settled refugees with jobs that come with good benefits. It’s opening the doors of our hospitals and clinics to universities where their students receive hands-on learning.
Together, we are better.
The reality is health care is facing some of its hardest times. We experienced record financial losses during the pandemic. Our caregivers are coping with unprecedented levels of burnout and there aren’t enough graduates each year to fill the positions we have open.
Yet I am optimistic, and I think you should be too.
Each challenge is an opportunity to innovate. I’ve shared some of our scalable solutions, hopeful that each one is a seed of change that will grow your organization too.
Times are tough, but so is the Inland Northwest. I believe remarkable things are ahead for workforce development, especially when we work in tandem with the health of our entire community in mind.
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