What They’re Watching: Jiquanda Nelson, Kaiser Permanente

Jiquanda Nelson is the Sr. Manager of Equity, Inclusion, Diversity & Workforce at Kaiser Permanente. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss access to total health and workforce development.


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“Our mission is to provide high quality, affordable health care services to our members and the communities we serve. But, we recognize we can’t do that without being mindful about the total health of our members — and that includes community conditions.

And so, in the workforce development space, we have really been intentional around, how do we create job opportunities and access for people in our communities? But we recognize that we couldn’t do that without focusing on the barriers. And so, we’ve been really putting a lot of resources and thought into how do we remove barriers to people trying to get access to jobs? We have language barriers, we have people who have transportation issues, getting to and from. So, for us, we developed a medical assistant apprenticeship as a first start into how we clearly articulate our mission.

Our medical assistant apprenticeship program was a partnership with other employers – we have Swedish, MultiCare, UW Medicine, and then other union partners — we have OPEIU, UFCW, and SEIU 1199NW. We are the first multi-employer, multi-labor, health care apprenticeship consortium in the nation. And so, this model is around bringing all of these partners together, including education partners, to allow people to earn and learn at the same time. And the magic in the program is that people are able to be full-time Kaiser employees, get the benefits, and also go to school for free, they don’t have to pay for it, and also get paid for classroom time. So, we flipped the model on people having on-the-job training and then also having education to couple with that. We have seen stories of people who have been wanting to get into health care, but just really couldn’t because of the barriers, and we’ve now broken down those barriers and created opportunities for people to have access to a living wage job. I’m super proud of the work and what can happen in the future.”