On November 7th, representatives of the Health Professions Network staff attended the Building an Effective Workforce for the Future Conference, put on by Workcred and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for World Standards Week 2019. Future health workforce issues are critical to HPN's mission and its member organizations.
Expert speakers across a wide array of fields brought diverse perspectives to bear on questions surrounding the next iteration of the American workforce. Particular attention was paid to upskilling and reskilling the workforce, and how industry and education partners might better adapt to the technological advancements driving a wedge between emerging competencies, and lagging educational programs.
This was a theme throughout: technology impacts work requirements faster than educational programs can adjust curricula.
Experts Spoke on New Workforce Realities
Patrick Gallagher, chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh and former acting deputy secretary and director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S. Department of Commerce, was the first keynote speaker of the conference. He stressed that the workforce currently in the pipeline will need to hone different primary skills than the generations previous. Namely, he underscored the importance of adaptability, communication skills, and the ability to work within organizational frameworks – both as a member of an organization’s team and also through the development of dedicated partnerships to the achievement of mutual goals between organizations – as the competencies that will define the workforce of the future.
A main takeaway from his presentation was that in order to cultivate an appropriately dexterous workforce, many employers may begin looking outside of their respective industries in order to find potential hires. It is the hope of these forward-looking employers that “outside” hires will allow them to find the necessary flexibility, skills, and competencies to position their organizations to succeed in a job environment increasingly defined by blurred boundaries between “education/training” and “work.”
This “New Collar” workforce was characterized by the speakers as having a demonstrated ability to delve deeply into a field of study/thought, while at the same time maintaining the necessary adaptability to succeed in the face of unanticipated change, obstacles, and technology-driven task-shifting. Essentially, the value of workers currently in the pipeline will not be defined solely by their productivity and output, as has broadly been the case for the early stages of the modern workforce, but rather by their flexibility and ability to approach new and unanticipated problems in a creative and multi-faceted way.
Panel discussions throughout the day re-emphasized Dr. Gallagher’s point, drawing on perspectives from the likes of technology firms, educational institutions, workforce-oriented organizations, standardization bodies, and other principal players addressing workforce viability and training for the years to come.
It was suggested by a number of the panel participants that information sharing between groups of educators and employers is something that has generally been lacking, and that this communication gap is something that needs to be addressed if we are to create a sustainable workforce as the 21st century leaves its infancy and enters its adolescence.
Dr. Shanika Hope (Amazon Web Services, Content & Research Leader) offered the conference attendees one example of how this communication gap might be effectively closed (or at least traversed). Dr. Hope described the process by which Amazon works with educational institutions and their leadership to co-develop curriculums that account for the skills and competencies employers like Amazon are looking for in potential hires now, and into the next decade.
While industry input into professional curriculum development may not be a panacea to the workforce shortages so many industries face, there is no doubt that institutions of higher learning are going to have to account more directly for employers’ interests and needs if they are to create adequately prepared alumni for the years to come. What’s more, through these industry-educator partnerships, educational institutions will foster the base of a new faction of workers who are more fully informed about their job prospects in the period following graduation, which ultimately leads to a diversity of approach, interest, and accomplishment for all stakeholders.
The communications upon which this type of workforce development is predicated, however, requires the reasonable bounds of “quality assessment” if it is to be truly fruitful. As Joe Bhatia, ANSI’s CEO & President proposed, industry standards provide this critical framework, and allow both educators and employers to better understand the minimum requirements necessary for successful employment, development, and innovation in the face of ever more rapid technology-driven transformation. He further stressed an emphasis on lifelong learning and continual reskilling as prerequisites for organizational success in the years ahead.
Future Health Workforce Takeaways
While the future healthcare workforce was not the direct focus of panel discussions, this conference illuminates several important lessons for the Allied Health Professions.
- Understanding workforce shortages in terms of necessary skills rather than any one specific category of employees opens up organizations to possible hires beyond the scope of their profession.
- Developing partnerships with educational institutions, and maintaining a consistent flow of information in both directions (i.e. both from employers to schools, and from schools to industry partners) is a critical first step to ensuring qualified workers in the years to come.
- Regardless of what initiatives your organization, school, educational institution, or accrediting/credentialing body chooses to pursue, “quality” should be the compass that guides you, and as such it needs to be defined in measurable, concrete terms in a consensus manner.
- Change is inevitable; prioritizing flexibility and adaptability in new employees and within your organization more generally is an imperative.
The Health Professions Network is working hard to generate industry-spanning partnerships in healthcare, develop a more common skills-based language surrounding the competencies of healthcare professions, and facilitate fluid transitions from the “training grounds” of professional education to the “battlefield” of the job market and healthcare delivery.
Leveraging the skills, perspectives, and interests of HPN’s members, it is our hope that a more diverse and adaptable healthcare workforce is created in the coming years and decades. This pursuit, though a lofty aspiration, is made possible precisely because of its breadth. By incorporating the unique experiences of professionals across the Allied Health professions, and engaging their direct participation in conversations and initiatives to build and define professional competencies, HPN represents something that is at once inherently aspirational and decidedly within our grasp: the inculcation of a workforce founded in common principles and assessed by individual competence and adaptability.
These two ideas are likely to be married in the healthcare workforce of the future, and by getting to work now on incorporating them into our approach, we set ourselves up to meet challenges ahead.
HPN's Spring Conference Will Discuss Data and its Impact on Health Professions
Health Professions Network conferences explore the biggest trends affecting non-physician health professionals and the associations, school programs, and credentialing bodies that support them. Continual improvements in healthcare’s data infrastructure have brought us to a critical point where big data and health informatics will quickly have a massive impact on care, and the professions themselves.
HPN conferences regularly convene regional experts and industry leaders to present quality educational sessions on topics at the forefront of the rapid change in health care.
Our program is not yet finalized and may change prior to the beginning of the Spring Conference, but we look forward to hearing from experts on data analytics and health informatics like Dr. Simon Lin of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Dr. Jennifer Garvin of Ohio State University and Jeffrey Geppert of Battelle Health and Consumer Solutions. These experts will discuss the increasing utilization of data in healthcare and the intersection of big data analytics and health professions.