WorkforceRX: Don’t go it alone

A conversation with Van Ton-Quinlivan, CEO, Futuro Health

In this episode of the Work in Progress podcast, Futuro Health CEO Van Ton-Quinlivan and I discuss the importance of collaboration in solving employers’ problem in finding enough workers while insuring workers find good-paying jobs and careers.

Take health care workers, for instance. The country was already in need of more trained health care workers—including medical technicians, medical billing specialists, dental hygienists, and more—when the pandemic struck and made that demand more urgent. By one estimate, and this is really an astounding number, the state of California will need 500,000 new health care workers by 2024. Again, that is just in California.

The nonprofit Futuro Health is working to fill some of the worker gap in the state through training and certificate programs that brings together all the stakeholders. Collaboration, Ton-Quinlivan who has lead Futuro since it launched in January 2020 says, is the key to success. “One of the misconceptions for many employers is that they have to go at it alone. There’s a lot of other parties that can come together and I call it the three-legged stool.”

“So, instead of trying to do workforce development where you do everything—setting up the education, finding the diverse candidate pool, and then doing the hiring process—there are actually stakeholders out there from the education institutions to community-based organization and public workforce agencies, who are ready to collaborate and to partner with employers to produce a talent pool that is inclusive, that is reliable, and that is quality. And all of that, there’s a formula to growing the talent puddle that you may be facing into a talent pool.”

Futuro Health is itself a collaboration. The venture is a partnership between health care provider Kaiser Permanente and the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UGW). Futuro helps identify in-demand careers in the field through tis work with health care providers, does community outreach to attract applicants, then helps match applicants to short-term, affordable, and flexible programs that will lead to jobs in those careers, Ton-Quinlivan tells me.

“There’s usually two barriers that stand in the way of adults being able to skill up. The first is affordability. And then the second is flexibility. On the second point, flexibility, that’s where it’s really important that the education and instruction is delivered in a format that accommodates adult schedule, because adults have all these commitments of family and jobs. We make sure that the shortlist of education providers pay attention to having adult-friendly education and training.

“And then on the former, which is costs, we have fortunately been able to underwrite tuition for the over 4,000 adult students that have been with us, but it’s still important for adults to have some skin in the game. They pay a $100 registration fee. And there may be some small ancillary fees, for example, if they need to take a background check or take an assessment test, but we have covered their tuition up to this point.”

Ton-Quinlivan says the partner programs are curated to only include programs that will lead to a credential that will put them on the pathway to a good job.

“We’re driving towards a goal of credentialing 3,500 healthcare workers in order to repopulate the frontlines. We are delighted that our average age of our students is 30 with 87% ethnic diversity, 36% bilingual. We continue to be able to bring diverse communities into the workforce to address this big number of 500,000 allied health workers needed in California, but there’s 2.3 million needed across the country.”

WorkforceRX: Agile and Inclusive Strategies for Employers, Educators and Workers in Unsettled Times

As a former vice chancellor for workforce and digital futures in the California Community Colleges system, Ton-Quinlivan is a veteran in the workforce development field and has long been a proponent of employers working side-by-side with educators and workers themselves to create a strong talent pool.

“I will acknowledge that it’s much easier to just post a job opening. But if you’re as an employer experiencing what I call the phenomenon of post and pray—which means you’re unsure that you’re going to yield talent on the other end—then that is the moment when you need to think much more intentionally about putting in place workforce development strategies so that you have a reliable, inclusive, and quality workforce pipeline from which to hire.”

She lays out some of the successful collaborative workforce development strategies she has learned over the years in her new book, WorkforceRX: Agile and Inclusive Strategies for Employers, Educators and Workers in Unsettled Times. 

“There’s a number of playbooks that are helpful to employers and it also decodes, how does education work and how do employers want to work? And brings the two types of organization more in sync so that we can bridge the language. Workers also can get what they want, and educators can be of great help to students,” she explains.

“I want to also make a point that it’s always easier for the larger companies to do workforce development. They have more HR capacity, they have more staff. But these models also work for small companies and medium-sized companies, but they may approach it slightly differently. Again, it’s like aggregating, aggregating and coming together in an ecosystem.”

In the podcast, Ton-Quinlivan shares a number of stories about how employers could rethink their hiring practices to broaden the talent pool. I particularly like the “fish story.” But I’ll let her tell it.

You can listen to the podcast with Van Ton-Quinlivan here on this page, or download it wherever you get your podcasts and listen on the go.

Episode 204: Van Ton-Quinlivan, CEO, Futuro Health
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch and Melissa Panzer
Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4.0.

Download the transcript for this podcast here.
You can check out all the other podcasts at this link: Work in Progress podcasts