New Report Highlights Statewide Strategies and Federal Resources to Meet the Needs of the Massachusetts Healthcare Workforce

Published jan. 05, 2017

January 5, 2017—Boston, MA—A new report released today on the healthcare workforce in Massachusetts highlights workforce development and education solutions that can help more youth and adults enter in-demand jobs in the industry and outlines federal resources available to support healthcare-focused education and training.

The report completes a series produced by Jobs for the Future (JFF)—a Boston-based national nonprofit organization that focuses on workforce development and education—designed to help support the Commonwealth to leverage emerging trends in federal funding. The series was commissioned by the Barr Foundation, the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, the Boston Foundation, and the Tufts Health Plan Foundation. The first report identifies federal funding opportunities for the state across many areas of public interest, and the second report focuses on juvenile justice reform.

“The healthcare workforce in Massachusetts presents a growing area of opportunity,” says Maria Flynn, President and Chief Executive Officer of JFF. “The state has developed many strong initiatives to prepare youth and adults for careers in this critical field. This report highlights policies and programs that can be expanded so even more youth and adults, particularly those that are low income and lack advanced education and training, can attain these jobs.”

“We need a healthcare workforce and the technology tools that meet the needs of all Massachusetts residents,” says Marylou Sudders, Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. “In addition to a well-trained, dedicated primary and direct care workforce, we need a diverse pool of people to focus on developing, supporting, and administering programs that address the entire healthcare system’s workforce needs. Our MassHealth waiver secures new federal funds for statewide investments in workforce to support population health management and accountable care organizations, among other system reforms.”

Healthcare is a growing industry in Massachusetts: Between 2007 and 2011, employment in the healthcare sector increased by over 42,000 jobs, more than any other industry in the state. Healthcare occupations in Massachusetts are also expected to grow more than 8 percent faster than the average growth rate for all occupations through 2020. In addition to the need for more workers, Massachusetts’ patient population is diversifying, so the workforce must also diversify. Diverse healthcare providers are more likely to increase access and improve patient satisfaction, so recruiting and promoting a diverse healthcare workforce is a priority.

Ensuring a workforce for the future: The healthcare industry requires a steady pipeline of young, adequately trained, increasingly diverse individuals. The report identifies a number of opportunities to encourage more youth to pursue healthcare career pathways. For example, the state can broaden and sustain access to dual enrollment, where students simultaneously earn high school and college credit, encouraging more students to enroll in postsecondary education right after high school. The state can also increase students’ exposure to and preparation for health information technology careers, such as through partnerships with local healthcare organizations.

Increasing college access for working adults: Massachusetts must expand opportunities for working adults to pursue healthcare employment or advance in their current careers. Strategies that could be enhanced include creating and marketing additional career paths for direct care and other types of workers and creating a common core of community college classes for allied health programs, which can expose students to a wider variety of career options and help them prepare for the rigors of health profession programs.

Improving developmental education: More than 60 percent of first-time degree-seeking community college students are determined to require some type of developmental education. A number of key healthcare stakeholders have developed initiatives to improve or bypass developmental education. The report suggests that the state’s Performance Incentive Fund could be modified to generate incentives for colleges to quickly adapt alternatives to traditional developmental education and create local accountability for improving student success. It also recommends that Massachusetts further enhance its developmental assessments and offer students a greater range of supports.

Better aligning education to regional employer needs: Regional partnerships comprised of employers, workforce training providers, and educational institutions are a critical strategy for identifying in-demand occupations and aligning programs to prepare workers for those jobs. Massachusetts can build on its strong work developing these collaborations by increasing the number of existing healthcare regional partnerships.

Leveraging federal resources: Massachusetts can increase its use of federal funding to support education and workforce training activities for healthcare careers. The report highlights a number of federal resources, such as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, Health Professions Opportunity Grants, and Ability to Benefit, which can help more youth and adults access healthcare education and training across the state. For example, through Ability to Benefit, Pell grants are available for students without a GED or high school diploma who are enrolled in an eligible career pathway program. This is a critical development for low-skilled adults who would not have been able to enroll in college without financial aid.

“The healthcare industry is one of Massachusetts’ strongest sectors, with consistent job gains year over year. In the Baker-Polito Administration, we are working to make sure the healthcare industry can continue to find skilled employees by building stronger relationships between employers, educators, and regional workforce boards to create more pathways to employment, particularly for people who have been unable—for whatever reason—to take part in the state’s economic prosperity,” says Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Ronald L. Walker, II. “Under the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act state plan, we create partnerships that will identify in-demand occupations, like those in healthcare, and align programs to prepare workers for jobs.”

“The healthcare field is one of the most rewarding and fastest growing job producers in Massachusetts,” says Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “Massachusetts has long been a leader in delivering world class healthcare and we must continue to ensure that it remains on a path to growth and expansion by providing additional federal resources and opportunities to educate and meet the evolving needs of our healthcare workforce.”

About Jobs for the Future

JFF is a national nonprofit that builds educational and economic opportunity for underserved populations in the United States. With our partners, we develop critical career and educational programs and public policies that increase college readiness and career success, and build a more highly skilled, competitive workforce. Established in 1983, JFF is a recognized national leader in bridging education and work to increase economic mobility and strengthen our economy.