Editorial

Health care’s effort to train workers should be emulated

August 14, 2015
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Grand Rapids-area health care providers have embarked on a collaborative partnership to address the reality of too few health care workers at a crucial time.

It is not the only industry to create such an effort in a time of worker shortages, but its impact will affect all other such efforts: Every industry is reliant on a quality health care system to attract skilled workers.

The partnership, which includes Spectrum, Mercy and Metro health care systems, links to MichiganWorks in targeting a diverse workforce, offering a start on the path to a health care career. The program will create work-based, earn-and-learn apprenticeships for medical assistants.

The collaborative is currently in the process of selecting a community college to provide the education and training, and the Business Journal advocates a very careful study of such a selection. As reported by Michigan Future President Lou Glazer in a June issue of the Business Journal, the three-year graduation rate for first-time college students enrolled full time at Michigan community colleges in 2013 was 12.6 percent, compared to 19.4 percent nationally, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. The same report showed at Grand Rapids Community College, the three-year graduation rate is 12.5 percent and for certificates plus two-year degrees it’s 15.9 percent.

The collaborative expects to launch the program in January.

The Business Journal commends the group in its creation of a just-in-time program. The job outlook for medical assistants is anticipated to grow 34.1 percent across the state between 2012 and 2022, with a 41.7 percent growth in the Grand Rapids area alone, according to LARA Health Careers in Michigan.

As reported in this week’s Business Journal, the Small Business Administration of Michigan found in a survey more than two-thirds of small business owners said they are having difficulty filling open jobs due to a lack of qualified applicants. Michael Rogers, vice president communications for SBAM, told the Business Journal, “There are indications that this workforce issue is beginning to drag on the small business economy.”

Area educational institutions also saw the future 10 years ago. Grand Valley State University has been building out its programs in health sciences. The institution also has collaborated with Grand Rapids Public Schools and other local school districts to create a curriculum and fields of study, reaching out to young students early in their education levels. Most importantly, it has expanded its educational opportunities in a wide range of occupations. In February, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and GVSU jointly announced a collaborative eight-week Health Careers Pipeline program.

In this climate of worker shortages, the foresight of such programs deserves mention.

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