Workforce development has traditionally focused on providing individuals with education, skills and opportunities to secure employment. With unemployment approaching 4% and income inequality reaching historic proportions, we have arrived at an important inflection point for the workforce development field. Job quality (defined as a combination of wages, hours, and benefits) may be as - if not more - important a goal for the workforce development field than employment alone.

JVS has long had a commitment to job quality that is integrated into our model of "getting in and moving up". The model has several important components that enable individuals with diverse education and skill levels, varying time availability, and different goals, to enter and exit a continuum of services (as they can and choose to) that allows them to "ladder up" to better quality jobs.

 Our “Getting In and Moving Up” model components include:

  • Core skills such as English, math, and general employability and career development skills;
  • Vocational skills that provide transportable and certified skills;
  • An educational pathway from adult high school diploma into college;
  • Coaching;
  • Placement services and post-placement supports; and
  • Workplace education in the form of incumbent worker career ladder training and coaching.

In the current low-unemployment environment, employment will remain a central goal for JVS, particularly for communities and individuals who continue to experience barriers to employment, even in a nearly “full-employment” economy. However, JVS will be focusing more attention in the coming months on developing strategies that enable individuals to access higher quality jobs.

 

Good Jobs Part 1: Up-Skilling CNAs for the Hospital Setting

 

With changing demographics and an aging population, the healthcare field is experiencing a severe shortage of Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs). CNAs form the foundation of the long-term care workforce, both in institutional settings such as nursing homes, and through home care agencies. While CNAs have one of the most challenging jobs, physically and emotionally, and are required to be state-certified, the position is typically not well compensated, in large part due to severe limits on long-term care reimbursement rates. In the workforce development field, the CNA is often seen as a “dead-end” job, with little opportunity for career ladders and improvements in job quality.

JVS is partnering with several employers to creatively open new career ladder and job quality improvement opportunities for CNAs, both through lateral and internal career ladder strategies.

Recently, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) approached JVS to assist with their pilot program to train-up CNAs for the hospital setting, in order to place individuals in hard-to-fill Patient Care Technician (PCT) positions. This was an important opportunity for experienced CNAs to move up career ladders laterally, by applying their skills and experience to a new segment of the healthcare industry where compensation and overall job quality is not as limited as it is in the long-term care industry.

BIDMC’s program hires individuals with direct care experience, such as CNAs and Medical Assistants, and then trains them for PCT roles, a critical role for hospital operations. For participants, this program was an opportunity to get a foot in the door with the hospital and earn a higher hourly wage. To ensure program success, BIDMC needed to find reliable candidates and sought out JVS for referrals.

JVS identified 8 clients for this program, of which 7 were graduates of JVS's CNA training program, and had found prior employment upon graduation from JVS in the long-term care industry, both in home care agencies and nursing homes. In total, BIDMC's pilot PCT program hired and trained 16 individuals and JVS referred 50% of the training cohort.

JVS’s former CNA students achieved an average 70% pay increase with this lateral career ladder opportunity, both through increased hours and wages. In addition, the newly trained and hired PCTs now have access to BIDMC’s nationally known workforce development services, which will provide them additional education, career ladder, and job quality improvement opportunities in the future.

The success of this collaboration has met a need for the employer, enhanced the quality of our clients’ jobs, and demonstrated that there are career ladder opportunities for Certified Nursing Assistants.

Stay Tuned: The next installment of the “Good Jobs” blog series will describe another job quality initiative in the long-term care industry, but one which builds internal career ladders.

 

Jerry Rubin