Kaiser Permanente on workforce development and preparing students for health care jobs of the future

At the beginning of May, Kaiser Permanente announced its new Medical Assistant (MA) Apprenticeship program. The program is one of several initiatives put forth by Kaiser as a means to help prepare students for the health care jobs of the future. 


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According to the Washington State Legislature’s recently passed Workforce Education Investment Act, Washington is expected to have 740,000 job openings in 2021, and most of these jobs will be filled by workers with a postsecondary credential such as a degree or apprenticeship. The law also states that many of these high-demand jobs will be in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and health care fields. 

To prepare for these jobs, the Act recommends that the state make investments in career-connected learning, scholarship opportunities, education grants, and supports for students. 

“Providing additional resources for workforce investments is critical in maintaining Washington’s competitiveness in the global economy by ensuring businesses are able to hire Washington talent,” reads the Act. 

During the 2019 session, Washington State lawmakers allocated $24 million in funding for Career Connect Washington and its supported initiatives over the next two years. Of that money, $10.6 million is dedicated to supporting career launch initiatives, which combine classroom learning with paid work experience. $1.6 million of the career launch funding is slated specifically for expanding health care apprenticeships.

Facilitated through Career Connect Washington, Kaiser’s MA apprenticeship program was created in partnership with SEIU Healthcare 1199NW and their Multi-Employer Training Fund. The 12-24 month program will provide about 20 students with 2,000 hours of on the job training, along with 288 hours of classroom instruction to become a medical assistant. Participants will have one-on-one mentoring, exam/certification support, and are guaranteed an MA position upon completion of the program. 

The application process recently closed in June, but participants will be chosen in August and the first cohort of students will begin in Fall 2019.

Other workforce development programs supported by Kaiser include their Medical Assistant Scholarship and their support of STEM programs in schools across the state. 

Jiquanda Nelson, Senior Manager of Equity, Inclusion, & Diversity, and Workforce Development at Kaiser Permanente, says these programs not only help to ensure there are skilled health care workers in the state, but they also relate to Kaiser’s work on inclusion and diversity. 

Our workforce development programs are really tied to our equity, inclusion, and diversity work. We are really committed to creating a workforce and a workplace that is inclusive and is representative of the communities that we serve,” said Nelson. “We recognize that an important part of that is providing job opportunities to people who live in our communities, and so we’re really focused on removing barriers.” 

Nelson says another goal of these programs is to assist other employers who are interested in creating apprenticeship programs. 

“The goal is to build a playbook that we are hoping to share with other employers who want to do this and who need to know how to do it. And we are going to willingly share that with them because the goal is really just to help shape the workforce of the future and it really requires all of us to do that.”

Note: An updated version of this article notes that the partnership includes SEIU Healthcare 1199NW’s Multi-Employer Training Fund.