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Bringing Employers Together to Solve Talent Challenges in the Healthcare Industry

The Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce facilitated the formation of a healthcare collaborative that has found talent solutions for employers while addressing the worker shortage in the region.

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Openings have been reduced dramatically from 240 vacancies down to less than 50, said North Florida Women’s Care CEO Bill Hambsh. Our industry is grateful for the work of this program and look forward to collaborating on other initiatives that are important to advancing healthcare.


Open Critical Healthcare Jobs

The Challenge

With close to 5,500 open positions in critical healthcare jobs, Tallahassee is in dire need of more healthcare workers. A worker shortage in the region is further illustrated by the total job openings at 14,000 coupled with only 6,700 active job seekers. In addition, it has become increasingly difficult to find talent that meet skills qualifications. Employers cite foundational skills including work ethic, ability to accept direction, and effective oral and written communications are lacking in new and existing employees.

For many communities, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated previous healthcare talent challenges including tough working conditions and exorbitantly expensive travel nursing programs, incentivizing great nurses to be away from their communities. The talent skills gap coupled with a shortage of workers emphasized the need to think and act strategically to fill the medical talent gap in the capital area.

The Solution

The Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce brought together 30 healthcare providers in the region to leverage the Talent Pipeline Management® (TPM) framework and act on their most pressing pain point: a shortage of clinical medical assistants (CMAs). To start, the healthcare collaborative produced job projections discovering that more than 240 new CMAs would be needed within the next year. While only 15 out of more than 30 healthcare providers responded to the survey, these projections indicated that the real number of CMA job openings would be even higher. Local training providers for CMA programs were as shocked by this data as employers. Previously available labor market information showed fewer than 100 CMAs needed.

Upon understanding future projections for CMA openings, local training providers for CMA programs like Lively Technical College were able to adjust coursework to fit employer needs. Local employers worked with Lively Technical College to determine which standards of the program could either be eliminated or moved to clinical settings while maintaining the quality of the training experience. Working directly with the Florida Department of Education, Lively Technical College was able to reduce class hours from 1,300 to 765, allowing students to graduate faster and earn a living more quickly, while also maintaining the threshold hours needed so that students who are eligible could use Federal Pell Grants. The adjusted program enables more students to consider CMA as a promising, accessible career choice.

Other CMA programs saw the data provided by the employer survey as an indication to change program structures and help relieve the gap in CMA workers. Keiser University already offered a medical assistant Bachelor of Arts but upon realizing the severity of need, the institution front-loaded medical assistant (MA) courses so students could begin working more quickly after course completion. Other institutions, like Tallahassee Community College and Florida Health Science Consulting, partnered to provide short-term certifications for CMAs. Through this partnership, they received a $500,000 commitment to provide 10 cohorts of CMA courses. With educators stepping up to the plate to make adjustments to their program structure, employers brought their muscle to the partnership as well by providing more clinical placements for students. Fifteen providers offered 132 clinical sites with the expectation that these students would be hired full time upon their completion of clinical training. Before the collaborative’s formation, many of these employers had never offered a clinical experience for CMAs.

Female nursing student pointing to xray

Educators Want In

As employers were meeting regularly to collaborate on talent needs, educators also took the initiative to form their own collaborative. The local chamber organized a meeting for professors and deans from institutions that provide healthcare programs to share the data from the employer survey. The meeting gave these education leaders the opportunity to learn more about the unique program offerings and discuss ways to help students with their career choices. What was meant to be a one-time discussion transitioned into multiple convenings for healthcare education program leaders to discuss improvements by focusing on two goals:

  1. Recruitment: Held as a combo recruitment event and health fair, adults and children were exposed to a variety of healthcare career pathways, healthcare screenings, and opportunities to access wraparound services that support the transition of underemployed and unemployed adults from prospects to enrollees to employees.
  2. Public Relations (PR): The campaign highlights opportunities and various career pathways in the healthcare sector.

With word getting out on the successful efforts of the healthcare collaborative, the Tallahassee Chamber was awarded a grant from HCA Healthcare Foundation to support continued work, including funds for recruitment events, the PR campaign, and to host a TPM Academy® to educate more partners on the TPM framework used by the collaborative and expand TPM efforts in the region.

Authentic Employer Leadership

The focus for the Tallahassee Chamber was ensuring that employers grasped the vision of an actual pipeline of workers. Before tangible work was evident, employers merely saw the TPM strategy as another conversation. Once employers began to see more opportunities for their leadership in accurately diagnosing the challenges, the TPM framework became a critical component in filling the medical employee gap.

To do so effectively requires not just collecting data but using it. “The data speaks volumes,” said Corrie Melton, vice president at the Tallahassee Chamber. TPM aims to deliver an employer return-on-investment and shared value for all partners, especially students and workers. To determine if the program is a success, the Tallahassee Chamber is tracking the following information:

  • Current capacity of training providers for CMAs (and soon Licensed Practical Nurse)
  • Current enrollment in relevant programs
  • Graduation rates
  • Clinical and job placement rates
  • Number of remaining open positions
  • Recruitment event participation to maximize capacity

Bill Hambsh, CEO of North Florida Women’s Care, describes the work to date from the collaborative’s starting point to today: “Our initial target was to increase the number of CMAs available for hire, starting with data collection and identifying the industry’s needs. Openings have been reduced dramatically from 240 vacancies down to less than 50. Our industry is grateful for the work of this program and look forward to collaborating on other initiatives that are important to advancing healthcare.”

What’s Next?

Implementing the TPM framework for CMAs has allowed the Tallahassee Chamber to prioritize a talent strategy that will be used for other healthcare jobs. Data collected directly from the employers has resulted in a better understanding of the worker shortage and how to address the skills gap more effectively in ways that benefit all partners. Students and workers are benefitting by an increase in clinical opportunities, as well as having an opportunity to onboard to employment faster with fewer classroom-based hour requirements.

Education and training partners have a better understanding of employer needs and can therefore provide more relevant and accurate coursework and experiences for their students. Employers are able to assess their needs as a company as well as an industry, communicate them effectively and efficiently to education and training institutions, and fill open jobs that are essential for the community.

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