Kaiser, major union form not-for-profit for workforce development

Kaiser Permanente and a union representing 57,000 of its employees jointly announced on Wednesday a new organization focused on growing the number of certified healthcare workers in California.

The not-for-profit group, called Futuro Health, has received $130 million from Kaiser to increase those qualified for skilled healthcare jobs such as medical coders, medical assistants and care coordinators, which face shortages.

The new organization was created in response to a four-year agreement Kaiser came to with the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West union in October that included Kaiser establishing a $130 million workforce development program.

Futuro Health, which is independent from Kaiser and the union, aims to graduate 10,000 new licensed healthcare workers by 2024.

Members of SEIU-UHW are going to help Futuro recruit potential new workers by holding career fairs in California communities, said Van Ton-Quinlivan, CEO of Futuro. She most recently served as executive vice chancellor of workforce and digital futures of California Community Colleges, which includes 115 institutions.

Ton-Quinlivan said Futuro wants to raise awareness about the different career options available in healthcare. People are often unaware that there are well-paying healthcare jobs available other than being a physician or nurse.

“Around the dinner table there is little discussion … about lab (technicians) or medical scribes,” she said. “The work we have to do is raise the general level of career awareness that these good jobs and good careers” exist.

Cost of education to receive certification in these jobs can be a barrier, so the bulk of the $130 million investment from Kaiser will go towards helping students pay for their education, Ton-Quinlivan said.

Futuro Health has also partnered with Western Governors University to provide students with competency-based options to make their education more affordable.

In addition to building the workforce, Futuro will also focus on helping those currently in skilled healthcare positions advance their careers with additional training and credentialing opportunities.

Ton-Quinlivan said Futuro hopes to expand its services to other states in the future.

“Initially, Futuro Health will focus on California but we know the shortages are nationwide … so our intent is to do the work here first, to gain experience, and then if we do it right, open the doors to others outside of California,” she said.