Health systems work with On-Ramp program to turn jobs into careers

OnRamp for web_i

Scott Suttel
Cain's Cleveland Business
Published February 20, 2022 04:00 AM

Read the full article on Cain's website

Northeast Ohio's three big health care systems — Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth and University Hospitals — are working with a variety of community partners on a project to train workers quickly for entry-level positions that offer a path to career advancement.

The Workforce Connect Healthcare Sector Partnership (HSP), which is based at Cuyahoga Community College, leans on the training expertise of the nonprofit Towards Employment and also involves Southwest General Health Center and the VA Northeast Ohio.

The partners describe it as "an employer-led collaborative" with three big priorities: developing "clear and actionable career pathways with family-sustaining wages" for Cuyahoga County jobseekers; improving economic opportunity for those jobseekers; and addressing the "critical shortage of entry-level health care talent" for employers.

Among the HSP's first projects is the Healthcare Career On-Ramp training program, which connects Cuyahoga County residents with open positions at the Clinic, MetroHealth and UH. The program pays particular attention to finding trainees in under-resourced communities with high unemployment.

Each cohort of On-Ramp trainees includes 10 to 15 potential employees who go through an eight-day, hybrid virtual/on-site training session. (The goal eventually is to make the training entirely in-person.) Those who successfully complete the training receive a $200 stipend and are guaranteed an interview with at least one of the three large health systems. Trainees who are hired then receive six months of post-hire job coaching with Towards Employment.

Soft skills and professionalism training within On-Ramp covers "health care work culture, customer service, life management, interview skills and professional presentation," according to a program description. It prepares trainees for entry-level positions in areas including environmental services, nutrition services, patient transport, nursing support and more. The On-Ramp program and the work of the HSP are funded with philanthropic dollars, county funding and employer in-kind matches.

The On-Ramp partners aim to hire 100 entry-level, full-time workers by June. It's a modest goal to get the program off on the right foot to support a big and growing Northeast Ohio health care sector that, like virtually every industry these days, is challenged to find enough workers in an environment still touched by the pandemic.

The health systems have also an initial retention goal of 70%. They also aim for 80% of new hires to come from under-resourced communities.

Addressing unemployment gaps and providing jobs with sustaining wages "allow people to lead thriving lives" and help communities to become healthier, said Alan Nevel, senior vice president and chief equity officer at MetroHealth.

Adrianne Shadd, program manager for workforce development and outreach at UH, said leaders at the health systems discussed best practices of other training and coaching efforts, and worked with community workforce partners, to maximize the effectiveness of the On-Ramp training. The accelerated timing of the training, in particular, helps to address some major barriers to those seeking job training, including childcare and transportation. Towards Employment works on the front end to determine if potential trainees are ready for the bootcamp.

The goal, Shadd said, is to make entry-level positions within the health care systems "more attractive and attainable," and to prepare workers who are ready and able to make a first step into a career — and then step into more advanced roles as they're able. She said initial feedback from trainees has been positive, particularly when it comes to ongoing career support.

One trainee, Lisa L. Pointer, now a community health worker at UH who helps bridge the gap between the system and patients, said the training helped her "target skills and redirect some skills" that are paying off in her new position.

"I love to speak to people, and developing that skill helps me every day," she said.

Another trainee, Jacari Henderson, now works in patient transport at MetroHealth. Henderson had worked at a nursing home previously, so he had so experience in health care, but he said the training helped establish him with a job where he believes "people are interested in helping me grow."

It's critical for the health systems to do as much as possible to broaden the talent pipeline, said Kelly Hancock, chief caregiver officer at the Clinic.

"We're trying to create a single front door" to find employment and a meaningful career, Hancock said. "We're early into this work. But raising the number of people in training programs makes the goals of the community more achievable."