Health Care Worker (1)

Rethinking the health care worker pipeline

Opinion: LAEDC senior director of workforce development
Jessica Ku Kim, LAEDC Senior Director of Workforce Development (Photo: LAEDC)

How we care for our aging population is one of the most daunting and important challenges we face as family members, as community builders, and as leaders. That’s why Honor, a home care company and the founder of the Honor Care Network, launched SAGE, an annual conference to develop innovative solutions for better aging.

As I participated on their workforce focused panel during SAGE 2019, I quickly learned how many companies are struggling to find home care workers and are turning away clients as a result.

I asked the room if they were connecting with their local America’s Job Centers of California (AJCCs) to recruit and saw no hands—no hands for community colleges, adult education, older worker programs, workforce development boards and others.

Though what I proceeded to share would be nothing new to workforce development practitioners, it was surely new for many of the employers and healthcare professionals in the room.

At first glance, home health care workers typically do not fit the successful employment outcome for these systems. That is because low-wage employment opportunities are not the ideal employment placement for our publicly-funded AJCCs, community colleges, and other workforce and education systems.

These workforce institutions are driven by performance-based funding which calls for job placement into middle-skills occupations with living wages. However, these home care occupations can be an entrance point into the healthcare industry or a flexible employment opportunity to support students.

As I shared with the room, if employers are not looking towards our community colleges as a source of talent then they are missing out on approximately 750,000 individuals in our Los Angeles Basin region. If employers are not partnering with our America’s Job Centers throughout Los Angeles County, they are also missing an opportunity to connect with job seekers in the brick and mortar places they visit to find employment.

I have three recommendations for home health care agencies. First, approach your AJCCs as a partner for immediate employment for those who urgently need to earn while they attend training. Home health care provides flexibility in scheduling and location. This allows an individual to attend their training while gaining work experience.

Second, partner with your local education institutions like your community colleges and adult education institutions to be a partner and provide work experience and work-based learning, provide part-time employment to those students (especially looking to work in the health care industry) and provide your expertise as a part of the college’s industry advisory council.

Lastly, think about your older worker population. The fastest-growing segment of our workforce is the older workforce. Employers should think through how they attract older workers especially since these occupations are not physically strenuous, often provide companionship to individuals, and offer flexibility.

As employers continue to struggle to fill their demand for lower-wage, lower-skill employment opportunities, it is an opportunity for our workforce and education institutions to innovatively strengthen the career readiness of our students and customers.

I encourage both employers and our workforce and education systems to rethink how we can leverage flexible employment opportunities to advance the careers of those we teach, educate, upskill, and support.

Jessica Ku Kim is the Senior Director of Workforce Development for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC).