Kaiser Permanente and Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West have partnered to create a nonprofit aimed at recruiting and training healthcare workers in California.
Futuro Health will be tasked with growing the largest network of certified healthcare employees in California — and if all goes well, the nation. The influx is sorely needed, as the Golden State’s population is projected to hit 44.1 million by 2030 with the total number of adults 65 and older nearly doubling to 8.6 million.
A severe shortage
California is projected to need another 500,000 healthcare workers by 2024, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
“We’re short by about 50,000 healthcare workers a year, and that’s just in California,” SEIU-UHW President Dave Regan said. “What we did with the creation of Futura is to attack that problem — not just from Kaiser’s perspective but systemwide.”
Kaiser Chairman and CEO Greg Adams said the Oakland-based healthcare giant and SEIU are “leading efforts to reverse the shortage trend.”
“This investment effort is consistent with our Nurse Scholars Academy and mental health postgraduate training program,” he said.
A statewide strike
Kaiser employees have long said the company’s medical facilities are understaffed — a situation that was underscored last month when an estimated 4,000 Kaiser mental health employees represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers held a five-day, statewide strike to protest understaffing, crushing caseloads and patient appointments that often aren’t available for months.
10,000 new healthcare workers
Through Futura, Kaiser’s initial investment of $130 million will be used to graduate 10,000 new healthcare workers in California over the next four years. SEIU-UHW’s nearly 100,000 members, who mostly work in hospitals, will collaborate with Futuro and Kaiser to scout, recruit and coach students.
“Our goal is to create funding of $100 million a year,” Regan said. “After the first four years we want to graduate 10,000 credentialed healthcare workers each year.”
An education-to-work model
Futuro Health will deliver an education-to-work model that supports candidates through career exploration and coaching, education financing and targeted education-to-work pathways toward their credential or license.
In addition to Kaiser and SEIU-UHW, Futuro Health is partnering with Western Governors University to provide students with an affordable competency-based education pathway forattaining credentials to become medical coders, medical assistants and care coordinators. Additional partnerships are in the works.
Tuition will be free to students who opt to become SEIU-UHW members when they land jobs, but others will have to pay for their classes, according to Regan.
Futuro Health will recruit and train a wide range of clinical, administrative and support professionals, including licensed vocational nurses, medical coders, health information technicians, radiologic technicians and laboratory workers.
Advancement for existing employees
Arlene Peasnall, Kaiser’s senior vice president and interim chief human resources officer, said Futuro Health will allow healthcare employees to increase their skills and grow their careers.
“In addition to attracting new talent to the health care industry, it will help existing workers advance in well-paying, fulfilling careers,” she said.