Guest Presenters:

  • Tessa LeSage, Director, FutureMakers Coalition
  • Megan Cochran, Healthcare Sector Strategist, CareerSource Brevard
  • Teri Jones, Founder and Executive Director, Macedonia Education Technology and Career Academy (METCA)
  • Jennifer Thayer, Workforce Planning and Development Program Manager, Lee Health

FCAN Host: Kathy McDonald, Assistant Director for Network Partnerships

Opening Remarks: Susan Bosse, Director, Business & Workforce Development, CareerSource Florida

Nearly 50% of jobs are at risk of loss due to automation over the next few decades, and COVID-19 is accelerating this trend in some industries, according to a recent report by McKinsey.  As a result, higher education institutions and employers must work together to align the degrees and certificates offered with in-demand jobs that are less likely to be lost to automation over the next decade.

During a Sept. 25 webinar, FCAN offered two examples — courtesy of FutureMakers Coalition and CareerSource Brevard’s Healthcare Workforce Consortium — from communities who have improved outcomes for its underserved residents and provided a roadmap for what this education-employer alignment looks like.

How Sector Strategies Create Greater Alignment

A recent survey revealed that 58% of Floridians have lost their job, had a pay cut or saw a reduction of hours due to COVID-19.  Yet an analysis by the United Way of Florida found that 46% of households struggle to afford basic needs, despite being employed. That means, in many cases, people not only need a new job or a first job, they often need to upskill, re-skill or earn a degree or credential in a career that offers more economic security.

Susan Bosse, director of business and workforce development for CareerSource Florida, opened the webinar by sharing why her organization is focusing on sector strategies to help make Florida’s economy more resilient. Bosse defined sector strategies as “business-driven workforce education solutions.”

“We know that in order to provide education opportunities that will make Floridians resilient workers in the state, we must first recognize which skills companies need both now and well into the future, and then align and provide opportunities for the attainment of short-term training, credentials, and stacking credentials,” that can lead to degree completion for greater advancement, Bosse said.

Successfully Addressing a CNA Shortage in SWFL

Lee Health, the biggest employer in Lee County with over 14,000 team members, leveraged FutureMakers Coalition and its partners to help solve a critical workforce shortage of certified nursing assistants (CNA) in the Southwest Florida region.

As they collaborated with local partners, the Coalition discovered there were numerous barriers keeping under-employed residents from accessing education and employment that extended beyond funding. Those barriers included difficulties in getting the word out to communities that could benefit most from entering the high-growth, high demand healthcare field, the need for flexible gap funding to meet program and other related fees, and poor communication with the testing company leading to extended wait times.

“The system is designed to get people into the training program and into the jobs after, but if we are not actively communicating with each other, the system becomes broken,” said Tessa LeSage, director of FutureMakers. “You have to be able to work together, and you have to be able to say to your partners, ‘This rule is making things unworkable for us.’”

The result of that collaboration was 80% of vacant CNA positions were filled. Their work also created a framework that they were able to replicate to fill medical assistant openings, with 95% of MA graduates currently employed in the local workforce.

“Collaboration brings community together and makes it stronger,” said Jennifer Thayer, workforce and planning development program manager at Lee Health. “Relationships like these bridge the gap between employers and educators to meet real-time industry needs.”

Making a Positive Impact on Healthcare in Brevard

CareerSource Brevard followed a Sector Strategies model that started with listening to employers in a specific industry sector to gain a better understanding of the talent pipeline needs.

“We began to utilize industry sector strategies to support key industries where labor market information demonstrates high growth and employment options that allow career pathways in entry-level occupations that can advance to high-skill, high-wage opportunities through continuous learning,” said Megan Cochran, healthcare sector strategist for CareerSource Brevard.

Through regional partnerships among employers, educators, workforce developers and community stakeholders, CareerSource Brevard sought to bolster the local healthcare talent pipeline by looking at the employer need vs. educational capacity of credential programs in careers like licensed practical nursing (LPN) while also strengthening the career progression from CNAs to LPNs to RNs (registered nurses) that offer greater economic stability.

One of their key partners was the Macedonia Education Technology and Career Academy (METCA), which has improved the region’s ability to reach residents interested in entering and growing their healthcare career through its Elderly Compassionate Care program. The veteran and faith-based program provides Brevard’s low-income members with scholarship funds for healthcare training in (HHA) home health aide, CN, LPN, and LPN to RN Transition career fields.

“We are feet on the ground. We find the nurses, we find individuals who need our support,” said Teri Jones, founder and executive director of METCA. The consortium also saw the need to provide preparation courses to help candidates prepare for the TABE (Test of Adult Basic Education) and TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills) tests. METCA stepped in, providing basic skills refresher and establishing training cohorts so students could help one another. “The training helps our students identify if this is really the thing for them. I’d rather see them drop out now, as opposed to going into the LPN training, and then dropping out after a couple of weeks.”

Show Notes

To learn more about community alignment to strengthen a talent pipeline through local college access networks and sector strategies — or to view the webinar and download the presentation — take advantage of these resources:

FutureMakers Coalition case study
Teri Jones – Workforce Education Innovator Award winner

Be sure to visit our Past Webinars page for access to recordings and downloadable material from FCAN’s previous presentations.

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