• Prescription for Job Growth: How We Can Fill the Skills Gap in Healthcare

  • FEBRUARY 10, 2015 | HEALTHCARE REFORM

  • WCA President Pens Op Ed on How Training for New Healthcare Jobs can Boost the Economy

  • In a recent opinion piece for The Journal News, Marissa Brett, WCA president, touted the specialized job training being provided by the WCA's new Hudson Valley Workforce Academy as one way to help drive economic recovery and vitality in the region.  



    In the column, Brett discusses the high-tech skills needed by today's jobs in healthcare, and details how a regional group of healthcare providers, colleges and municipalities came together to address the skills gap in the regional healthcare workforce. Here's a copy of that piece, which ran in The Journal News on Februrary 8, 2015:

    The economy is looking up, and we have the healthcare industry to thank for helping to drive recovery. The healthcare sector is the fastest-growing industry in the country, and the largest economic engine in the Hudson Valley, contributing $15 billion to the regional economy. So the overall job outlook in the industry looks bright. The United States will need 5.6 million more trained healthcare workers by 2020, according to a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. In Westchester County alone, there are now more than 2,500 jobs available in healthcare, health tech, and biotech.

    As we emerge from an economic downturn, that should be good news for our region. The health of the industry is leading to new opportunities for economic growth, and creating thousands of good-paying jobs. But healthcare and technology have changed radically, and these are new jobs that didn't exist 10 years ago. The fact is, in the Hudson Valley, we are facing the challenge of filling these critical jobs with workers who have the requisite skills and training.

    The skills gap

    Technological innovations are moving so rapidly, they are outpacing our ability to keep up in the workplace. While they create jobs, they make others obsolete, and challenge workers to keep skills aligned with the latest developments. We need to address the skills gap in order to keep our biggest economic engine from stalling.

    We cannot change this skill shortfall overnight, but the Westchester County Association has taken an important step to remedy the problem. On Feb. 24, we are offering "Healthcare Analytics," the first course of a curriculum designed by the new Hudson Valley Workforce Academy, a bold new initiative to help train our region's workers in the high-demand skills needed for today's jobs. We have leveraged our organization's long-standing partnerships with area employers and higher education institutions to create curricula that will keep pace with the latest workforce changes, brought about by technological advances. We are training the region's current and future workforce according to the needs of the marketplace. Through the Academy, employers will have a say about what kind of training their workforce needs.

    The Hudson Valley Workforce Academy will offer short-term, certificate-based courses, typically 5 to 6 weeks in length, backed by participating academic institutions and taught at a neutral site. The pilot course, designed for healthcare managers with little-to-no experience in analytics, will teach participants about the rich clinical and business sources of "Big Data" available in the healthcare industry. Future courses will address skills in management, critical thinking, organization, and communication, among others. Courses are being determined, in part, through a needs assessment survey conducted by Mercy College's Strategic Consulting Institute, which is partnering with the WCA on this project.

    Collaboration shows commitment

    It's all part of our efforts to grow our talent pool, attract more business regionally, and make Westchester and all of the Hudson Valley more competitive. Talent development is an essential part of the WCA's BLUEPRINT for Westchester, our aggressive economic development initiative which fosters strong collaborations with the healthcare, higher education, technology, real estate, municipal government, and general business communities.

    Why will this Academy succeed? Because it is a collaborative effort. The WCA now has memoranda of understanding signed by 16 area college presidents, six of the region's mayors, and 20 healthcare providers in a five-county region, plus the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York state, which includes 50 hospitals in the Hudson Valley and Long Island. This participation signals the stakeholders' commitment to working together to strengthen the local economy and create jobs.

    We're not going to be able to produce workers with new skills by traditional education alone. With the unprecedented collaboration among stakeholders, the WCA has an opportunity to more closely align the needs of higher education and the workplace through the Hudson Valley Workforce Academy, which will become an essential resource to every employer in the region.

    A skills gap has the potential to hurt our modern economy. Our workforce needs to be nimble, and to know how to think critically. We recognized this trend years ago and set out to create and fill a talent pipeline to sustain our growth as a national health tech hub. The WCA is leading the way with innovative partnerships that align the needs of business and education to drive economic vitality in the region.

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