Ashley A. Smith
August 31, 2021
California has long needed more health care workers, and the coronavirus pandemic only made the demand more pressing. Filling the gap is the goal of a unique joint venture that creates certificate programs to recruit and train new medical technicians, as well as lab and dental assistants throughout the state.
It’s called Futuro Health, a nonprofit venture by Kaiser Permanente, a Bay Area-based health system, and the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, the California branch of 100,000 members of the national health care workers union.
Futuro doesn’t directly train what are termed allied health professionals — those who offer a wide range of diagnostic, technical and therapeutic services in the field of health care. Rather it helps those who do. It connects with colleges to create specific programs, helps design courses, recruits students and even offers scholarships.
“We talk to employers. We select college partners. We handhold the students and underwrite the scholarships because we’re trying to grow this talent pool in areas where we know there are shortages,” said Van Ton-Quinlivan, chief executive officer of Futuro Health and a former vice chancellor for workforce and digital futures in the California Community Colleges system.
By 2024, the state will need 500,000 new health care workers, according to a 2021 report from California Competes, a nonprofit focused on improving graduation outcomes. That’s mostly due to a growing, and aging, population.
Those health care workers will need to “reflect the communities that they serve,” said Ton-Quinlivan. Latinos are underrepresented in the health workforce despite making up 40% of the state’s population, according to a Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) report on the state’s health care worker shortage found. That can be an issue when “provider cultural competence and Spanish language proficiency are important indicators of improved health care quality for Latino populations,” the report said.