Austin an example for connecting workers to healthcare careers
There are more job openings than workers in most parts of the country, and in cities like Austin, where the unemployment rate hit a pandemic low of 2.5% in May 2022, the need for workers is essential. And this trend is even more worrying for the healthcare industry. A regional analysis carried out in October 2021 revealed that only 2,503 unemployed and skilled workers were available to fill 8,388 health care positions.
In our recent report, titled Keepers of a Healthy Heartland: Strategies for Building a Robust Health Care Workforce, we took an in-depth look at 10 healthcare professions that only require a bachelor’s degree or less in five central communities to understand the challenges and innovations needed to fill these positions. Chief among our recommendations is that policy makers and workforce developers need to partner to ensure adequate pipelines of allied, non-physician healthcare workers.
Coordination between entities providing workers can be daunting. However, Austin is one of the metropolitan areas that is doing well – and the city’s success can be an example for other communities looking to shore up their economic future at the core and beyond.
Take for example Workforce Solutions Capital Area (WSCA), which helps fill entry-level positions and provides upskilling opportunities so students can progress into nursing jobs.
He joins other groups in the Austin area who are doing great work. Capital Idea helps low-income non-traditional students use post-secondary education as a pathway to career advancement and success. It provides access to training, as well as the support services needed to ensure that its trainees – of whom approximately 78% are women, while 54% are Hispanic and 22% are black – successfully progress from level positions entry to pursue better paid nursing. works.
Similarly, the Central Texas Allied Health Institute (CTAHI) works with low-income communities to train residents in health care. CTAHI also reimburses a student’s monthly utility bills, provides hot lunches for students and their families, and helps with childcare, tuition, book costs, and transportation.
These and other interventions are essential if we are to succeed in moving people into high-demand jobs that provide middle-class incomes.
We should not only focus on those who are already in the labor market. Austin Community College (ACC), for example, works with local school districts to develop talent among the predominantly low-income and ethnic minority populations of East Austin. Most classes are held in high schools, but students also visit the ACC campus for simulated clinical experiences. For entry-level positions, such as phlebotomy, high school students earn a certificate and can immediately access employment. Encouraging and enabling these students to find jobs and careers helps a lot in escaping poverty.
Still, Austin has challenges. The cost of living is 19% higher than the US average, and it remains difficult to recruit people to train them for lower-paying jobs, such as home health aides and medical assistants. Additionally, major barriers to full employment in this sector include the lack of educators to train these new workers and the limited clinical opportunities for interns and students to gain hands-on experience.
Despite these obstacles, Austin and other communities in the heartland must seize this opportunity to rethink the system. The need to balance supply and demand is more critical than ever. And as baby boomers age, they put pressure on the system in two ways: there’s more demand for their services and a dwindling supply of health professionals.
As Austin-area organizations already doing this work show, it’s not impossible and partnerships are key. This work is crucial for Austin and other core communities to realize our economic potential.
DeVol is President and CEO of Heartland Forward, which advocates for solutions to drive job creation, economic growth and improved health outcomes.