By Sheri Williams
Facing a drastic shortage of healthcare workers in the state, SEIU-UHW and Kaiser Permanente have formed a unique nonprofit venture to train the union workers of the future.
The union and the healthcare provider have partnered to establish Futuro Health, a $130 million nonprofit.
Creating the nonprofit was part of the labor agreement won last October, after months of picketing and negotiation. Kaiser workers with SEIU-UHW now have one of the strongest contracts in the industry, but mental healthcare workers with National Union of Healthcare Workers are still fighting with the employer for better conditions, including more access for patients to mental health care.
Last month, more than 4,000 of those mental healthcare workers went on strike throughout the state. NUHW workers have been without a contract since June 2018.
“Can you imagine if you had cancer and were told you would have to wait four months before treatment?” said Sal Rosselli, president of NUHW, in media. “They just don’t care about mental health care.”
The new nonprofit venture does not specifically deal with mental health, but will focus on training workers for allied healthcare services including vocational nurses, medical coders, health information technicians, radiologic technicians and laboratory workers.
California is expected to need about 500,000 new healthcare workers by 2024.
By 2030, the population of California is projected to reach 44.1 million, and the total number of adults 65 and older will nearly double from 5 million in 2014 to 8.6 million in 2030 – giving the state an aging population that will likely need more medical care. The allied health sector, which provides the backbone of care that often goes unseen, is sometimes called the “hidden healthcare workforce.” But more people are needed to meet the increasing demand.
Futuro Health has the goal of graduating 10,000 new licensed, credentialed allied healthcare workers over the next four years, in part by providing an education-to-work pathway that is affordable. If the nonprofit is successful, the model could be imported to other parts of the country.
“Futuro Health represents a new model for tackling the workforce shortage and training workers especially when they no longer stay with one employer for long,” said Dave Regan, president of SEIU-UHW. “Ensuring that all people have access to high-quality, affordable health care and a living wage is a priority of SEIU-UHW.”
SEIU-UHW, which has nearly 100,000 members, many of whom work in hospitals, will help scout, recruit and train students.
“Focus groups conducted by SEIU-UHW revealed that even for those already working in allied health jobs, the student debt incurred to get them in the door becomes a barrier for attaining the next credential for moving up into careers of acute demand by healthcare providers. For those individuals not already in the industry, increased awareness of career options as well as education planning, education financing, and personal mentoring can help increase interest,” the union said in a statement.
The nonprofit will work with Western Governors University to give students an affordable path toward earning a credential to be qualified for one of the jobs. Futuro hopes to create other such partnerships as it grows.
Van Ton-Quinlivan will serve as Futuro Health’s inaugural chief executive officer, according to the union. “I am honored to lead Futuro Health,” said Ton-Quinlivan. “Our work is to create access to opportunity and lower the barriers that many individuals face when it comes to social mobility. This will also ensure more equitable access to good patient care across our country, state and communities.”
Ton-Quinlivan most recently served as the executive vice chancellor of workforce and digital futures of the California Community Colleges, the largest higher education system in the nation with 115 institutions. As an appointee of former California Gov. Jerry Brown, she grew public investments in career education programs from $100 million to more than $1 billion by establishing workforce development as state policy priority.