The Denver Office of Economic Development (OED) commits to mapping and developing health care career pathways by working with the Greater Denver Health Care Partnership and other health care organizations, educators, and workforce professionals to review and revise the curricula for entry-level career and technical education certificates. The objective is to understand where there might be duplication, explore modularizing curriculum into shorter periods, and provide concurrent enrollment credits for these certificates, where possible, that count towards college.
Labor market data will be used to identify highest-demand occupations and potential pathways. Career pathways will be mapped by looking at entry-level occupations that have some similar duties and determining how curriculum can be streamlined to account for overlaps. For example, if curriculum is written in modules (chunked), an experienced phlebotomist might not have to sit for the part of the LPN curriculum that teaches how to draw blood, if that skill has already been developed, thereby saving tuition fees and time.
OED will host alumni focus groups of entry-level health care professionals, who might have moved from one of these occupations to a higher-level occupation and whose credits have not counted, to assess where curriculum was duplicative and what else would have been helpful as they progressed through a pathway. OED also commits to bringing individuals from industry, workforce development, and education together on a bi-monthly basis to understand changes in the demand for these workers, how curricula might be changed, and what it might take to develop and get approval for stackable credentials that would translate both across and within schools. Lastly, bridge programs will be developed for lower-skilled populations that would not otherwise be able to access these career pathways.
OED will bring skills and experience in workforce development policy and program delivery and will submit applications to local health care conversion foundations to fund some of the work. They will also ensure there are informational sessions and outreach efforts for girls and women about opportunities to move up these pathways. OED partners will bring together valuable resources, such as industrys perspective on labor demand, the knowledge of educators who teach relevant courses, and the voice of the supply side from K-12 and workforce professionals.
Quarter 1: Group is convened and partners will begin their respective assignments. These assignments consist of industry representatives exploring the demand side and what knowledge, skills, and abilities are needed for each occupation under consideration and educational representatives from local colleges, technical schools, and K-12 looking at the curriculum for entry-level occupations to determine if there is duplication.
Quarters 2 & 3: Educational representatives will work with industry groups to redesign the curriculum based on new health care workforce demands.
Quarter 4: Redesigned curricula will be submitted to state boards for approval and career pathways with stackable credentials will be developed.
The Affordable Care Act, coupled with the demands of aging baby boomers, is changing workforce needs in the health care industry and, according to Economic Modeling Specialists International, contributing to a projected 27.6% increase in health care occupation demand by 2020 in Metro Denver. A number of entry-level occupations, including licensed practical nurse (LPN) and medical assistant, are evolving to fill the demand for outpatient care, but many of the duties and responsibilities of these jobs are changing. Research indicates that with changes in healthcare delivery and the demographics of an aging population, the ancillary health worker requirements are continuing to grow. Not only do we need them for acute care, but we need them for post-acute, home health and work we need to do for preventive and wellness-based health.
These changes, coupled with a 13% unemployment rate among minorities in Denver County, offer an opportunity for workforce development and education professionals to work with the health care industry to develop clear career pathways that allow lower-skilled individuals to collect industry-recognized, stackable credentials that will lead to higher-level occupations. Because some of the classes for these entry-level health care workers are considered career and technical education, often they do not count towards a higher-level certification, even in the same occupation. For example, at a public career and technical college or a community college none of the credits for a phlebotomist, medical assistant, emergency medical technician/paramedic, pharmacy technician or certified nursing assistant might count towards the LPN, even if the curriculum for an LPN includes training in some of these subjects.