By Jack Hershey and Mike Abrams
Ohio’s hospitals are not only vital caregivers in their communities, but they are economic engines as well. In fact, 255,000 individuals are employed by Ohio hospitals, and another 280,000 have a job because there is a hospital in their community. For opportunity, innovation and purpose, no job can compare to one in health care and, according to the most recent federal projections for the labor market, the job opportunities in this exciting industry will remain stronger than in any other for the next decade.
According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care jobs will see more growth than any other sector through 2028. At a 1.6 percent annual growth rate, the number of health care jobs will grow more than three times faster than the overall annual growth of jobs in the entire rest of the economy, with almost 3.4 million jobs projected to be created. Ohio alone is projected to add 18,390 RNs in just the next seven years and there are currently 3,000 jobs available statewide as we speak.
While the demands of health care are significant and standards for performance when caring for another life are high, not every job requires lengthy training, residencies and fellowships in order to earn a good living. In fact, 10 of the most sought-after positions in hospitals today can be filled by graduates of community colleges with an associate’s degree.
To meet these needs and ensure that Ohioans receive the high-quality health care they deserve, Ohio’s hospitals and community colleges are teaming up to train the next generation of health care professionals. It is a natural partnership: those with jobs to fill are working with those with the expertise in providing in-demand training to students.
By coordinating on the development of training programs and curricula, and then providing students real-world learning opportunities in health care settings, Ohio’s community colleges and hospitals can provide training opportunities that transition seamlessly into challenging, good-paying careers. The system is already at work at institutions across the state, and students, hospitals and patients all benefit.
For example, Washington State Community College and Memorial Health Systems in Marietta, Ohio created an innovative effort to prepare students for in-demand health care careers. Students can begin working at the hospital in as little as one semester with potential for built-in, long-term advancement, and the hospital is guaranteed skilled employees in a range of health care professions who are invested in growing their careers. It’s working. Last year alone the hospital hired 32 nursing graduates from the college and 26 members of the staff serve on the college’s health and sciences advisory board to provide feedback on the curriculum to ensure it is aligned with the skills and competencies the hospital needs.
Similar successful hospital-community college partnerships exist throughout the state, from the partnership between Holzer Health System and Rio Grande Community College in southeast Ohio, to the partnership between Licking Memorial Health and Central Ohio Technical College in Central Ohio, to the partnership between Wood County Hospital and Owens Community College in northwest Ohio, and all regions in between.
Another success story is the partnership between Edison State Community College in Piqua, Leading Age Ohio and Brethren Retirement Community, who are utilizing a registered apprenticeship model to provide both on-the-job and classroom training for State Tested Nurse Aides. According to the US Labor Department, 91 percent of students who complete registered apprenticeships are still working for that employer a year later. Such a high retention rate shows that students are finding their new jobs rewarding and that the programs are producing good returns-on-investment for employers thanks to low turnover and a more skilled and diverse workforce.
These and other programs were spotlighted at the 2019 Workforce Summit this month, a joint effort of the Ohio Association of Community Colleges and the Ohio Hospital Association. Speakers and participants explored workforce needs in health care, discussed new opportunities for community college and hospital partnerships, and worked to determine how to develop a qualified and more innovative workforce that better serves our communities.
Ohio faces a wide gap between the number of college-educated health care professionals in today’s workforce and the number that hospitals and other health care organizations will need to provide quality care for Ohioans—today and in the coming years. With new training pipelines like those available from the partnership between community colleges and hospitals, it is easier than ever to join the exciting world of health care. These unique learning-training partnerships aren’t programs for “someday.” They’re in place right now and producing highly skilled professionals earning good salaries, doing meaningful work, and helping Ohioans live healthier lives.