Virginia Ready News

On July 19th, Virginia Ready hosted a Healthcare Talent Task Force, gathering Business and Education Partners to discuss career pathways for credentialed VA Ready Scholars. VA Ready was joined by representatives of the Community College Workforce Alliance (CCWA) and VCU Health who shared a presentation on their partnership, created to address critical staffing needs in the industry. The healthcare industry is currently experiencing a significant demand for both employees and training opportunities, which is exactly why CCWA and VCU Health joined forces.

VCU Health’s Director of Workforce Development, Harrison Hayes, explained there are high numbers of vacancies in critical areas of the hospital system across the Commonwealth. This is a common pain point for all healthcare systems, and without appropriate staffing, hospitals will continue to struggle.

The need existed pre-pandemic but accelerated after 2020. Positions in greatest demand include clinical staff like nurses, but also entry-level positions like patient transportation, care partners, patient access representatives, and certified nursing assistants.

In response to these needs, VCU Health and CCWA partnered to expand the regional pipeline of Medical Assistants and funnel them into Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) positions at VCU Health. This involved developing a new training lab, establishing a clinical experience as a component of the CMA training, and producing career pathway maps showing the potential path for a CMA.

CCWA’s Coordinator of Healthcare Programs, Amy Taloma, outlined the breakdown of responsibilities for the initiative. CCWA’s role as the education provider required securing expanded lab space and hiring additional staff in order to support increased enrollment. VCU Health provides onboarding for clinical and internship experiences, and worked to streamline the application process for students applying to VCU positions.

The partners learned two primary lessons while implementing the program:

  1. There was inadequate lab space at community colleges. The targeted student population needed a lab space that was conveniently located near them, with more equipment and instructors to meet student and employer demands.
  2. Program enrollment could be doubled by building capacity to provide training and certifications.

The presentation closed by covering outcomes from the partnership, which has proven very successful. Since February 2022, VCU Health has hired over 30 medical assistants across its inpatient and outpatient facilities as a result of the partnership. The partners are also finalizing a clinical agreement for medical assistants to develop a stronger pipeline, and courses have been launched for entry-level staff at VCU Health to enter the clinical environment as medical assistants. Conversations have also begun to expand this model into other units of the hospital system.

In the latter half of the meeting, VA Ready facilitated a group discussion with attendees, focusing on hiring barriers and solutions in the healthcare industry. One of the barriers discussed was applicants not having enough experience in the field. Many positions require at least some clinical exposure before someone is placed in a role, and there are many areas where they cannot hire someone without experience. This is something VCU Health’s program is trying to correct by offering supplemental opportunities for individuals to rotate in multiple sectors of the hospital before they are brought on full-time.

Cynthia Lawrence, VA Ready Board Member and Director of Workforce Development at Carilion Clinic, explained Carilion Clinic’s job shadowing opportunities and mentoring initiatives provide some of that necessary experience. Practitioners, physicians, and administrators have agreed to serve as mentors or points of contact for students interested in entering the health field. The hospital system’s next focus will be setting up opportunities for students and educators to come onto the campus and learn on-site. One of the ways they will accomplish that is through a region-wide career advisory forum where speakers will discuss various career clusters in the healthcare industry. This hands-on learning opportunity will give students a better idea of possible pathways in healthcare.

At Sentara Healthcare, experience is provided through internships which are offered for all clinical and non-clinical positions. In addition to job specifics, interns also learn resume building and how to network in person and online.

The group also discussed resume and interview strategy specific to the healthcare industry. Many indicated skills like data entry and customer service can be transferable to the industry, so Scholars should highlight those roles on their resumes. It was also noted that much of the specific training for entry-level jobs is offered on the job, so in some instances only a high school diploma is required in addition to a job-specific credential.

Harrison Hayes shared the unique system in place with CCWA due to their partnership. Applicants from CCWA are tagged as such and forwarded immediately to hiring managers for interview consideration. And if those applicants are not selected, workforce development team members work with them to provide feedback on what to improve for their next interview.

This exchange of information and sharing of best practices will inform how Virginia Ready helps Scholars reskill and upskill for thousands of in-demand roles across the Commonwealth of Virginia in close partnership with our valued Business Partners and Education Partners. Thanks again to all who attended our Healthcare Talent Task Force meeting, helping Virginians jumpstart their careers and enhance their skills in the field.

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