21st Century Pathways to Health Careers

At a Glance

Reengineering the health workforce to be representative of its roots in diverse communities in order to expand California's health care systems' capacity.




Areas of Work
  • Ensuring Equity in Advancement
  • Meeting Employer Needs
Experts Involved
  • CA

About the Initiative

Meeting the health-related needs of an increasingly diverse populace will require an effort to diversify and build the frontline health workforce.

The California Endowment (TCE) has been working to improve health career opportunities in underserved communities since 2015 through its 21st Century Pathways to Health Careers initiative. The overarching vision of the initiative is to develop equitable student-centered pathways to health careers in the 14 sites of the Building Healthy Communities (BHC) initiative.

The initiative connects health-related classroom learning with exposure to work experiences, setting a solid foundation for developing the talent needed in the health workforce. It also helps individuals acquire the education and training they need to advance in both public and private health systems.

This effort requires educational institutions, employers, and communities to embrace fundamentally new ways of working. Schools, for example, are often not designed to incorporate work experiences into their curricula, and employers typically are not equipped to supervise or otherwise work with high school students.

Organizations within BHC communities must set new priorities, enter into new partnerships, and allocate funds and other necessary resources. This involved establishing relationships, building knowledge, forging partnerships, and raising awareness to lay the foundation for building and expanding career pathways.

JFF's Role

JFF supported these efforts by working with stakeholders at each site and across the state to:

  1. Strengthen their partnerships
  2. Help them learn from best practices for career-related education and training
  3. Support their efforts to meet their goals at the program level
  4. Build a statewide learning community that served as a source of relevant information and fostered collaboration and peer-to-peer support through in-person meetings


Across the network of sites, JFF identified the following four elements of practice as clear signs of success in efforts to develop equitable health career pathways:

  1. Connecting a shared vision to tangible goals and action
  2. Prioritizing equity
  3. Developing employer champions
  4. Strengthening work-based learning systems and programming

When those elements were present, sites made progress toward the goal by developing strong partnerships, activating local networks to support students, building new cross-organizational programs, and building sustainability into their programs.

Our brief, California's Health Care Solution: The California Endowment's 21st Century Pathways to Health Careers presents examples of successful practices at several of the 14 sites that may help other educational institutions, employers, and communities in California and across the country develop similar career pathways initiatives.