Denver's Healthcare Challenges Addressed by Employer-Led Effort

April 21, 2016

The Aurora Chamber of Commerce has pioneered an industry-led workforce, education, and economic development collaborative—the Greater Metro Denver Healthcare Partnership—to fill jobs in its expansive healthcare community. Its key strength is that it provides a forum for employers to identify in-demand occupations and then collaborate with workforce and education partners to recruit and train the next generation of employees. “The Partnership provides a framework to identify strategic direction and create innovative solutions to meet healthcare’s workforce needs,” said Kevin Hougen, president of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce. “This Partnership is driven by the industry.”

The magnitude of this Partnership includes more than 50 hospitals, 75 ambulatory care facilities and outpatient clinics, 80,000 employees, and 10,000 physicians. Partners include: Centura Health, UC Health, Denver Health, Kaiser Permanente, SCL Health, HealthOne, and Children’s Hospital of Colorado. One of the nation’s most robust medical campuses, this “Mayo Clinic of the West” is composed of seven hospitals systems across multiple counties in Colorado. It has proliferated job opportunities for many in-demand occupations, such as medical assistants which has demonstrated more than 45% growth.

The collaboration supports a comprehensive approach to address supply and demand. Surgical technicians, for example, are experiencing an expansion of training programs encompassing strong recruitment, apprenticeship models, and two new programs within the community college system. This promotes and furthers in-state recruitment and helps the area meet its demand for surgeries, which is increasing in tandem with Denver’s growing population. Consequentially, salaries have increased significantly, exemplified by medical technicians where the average salary has increased from $14.95 per hour at enrollment to $24.77 once hired.

The Partnership determines a clear path for students into Colorado’s medical field and creates a student-workforce symbiosis. 

The Partnership assists educators in equipping students with the skills essential to entering high-growth job fields including certified nursing assistants, pharmacy technicians, medical laboratory technicians, medical laboratory scientists, surgical technicians, medical assistants, perioperative nurses, radiology technologists, and medical coders.

For more than three years, the regional workforce centers have committed by investing more than $525,000 and sharing the salary costs of a project coordinator to manage the Partnership’s initiatives. The results of the Partnership’s efforts have been exceptional with 120 individuals enrolled in three training programs; 30 will graduate in 2016. Ninety percent, or 80 individuals, obtained employment shortly upon completion with an average salary increase $11.50 per hour. The Partnership is outcome driven, so each solution leads to employment and higher wages.

“The Partnership brings together human resource leaders, deans from training institutions, and managers of workforce systems to create a single voice on the issues impacting the industry. By engaging healthcare subject matter experts, we can get to the heart of the issues and develop solutions to build and manage the talent pipeline,” said Jeana Capel-Jones, project coordinator for the Partnership. “Our vision is to build a bridge from education to employment.”

Though the Partnership has stimulated the economy in local communities, recruiting, hiring and training employees at the pace necessary for Colorado’s evolving health care industry continues to pose challenges. Promising opportunities for economic prosperity and workforce enhancement cannot continue to be sacrificed.

The Partnership determines a clear path for students into Colorado’s medical field and creates a student-workforce symbiosis. Effective efforts like the Greater Metro Denver Healthcare Partnership must be supported and implemented to their fullest potential, as they help ensure jobs are filled and students are equipped with the specific skills necessary to sustain a growing and changing economy.

For more information about the Greater Metro Denver Healthcare Partnership, please contact Jeana Capel-Jones at jcapel-jones@arapahoegov.com.