May 22, 2024
Partnership to boost pool of health care workers in Hampton Roads

The Hampton Roads Workforce Council aims to tackle health care staffing shortages through a new partnership funded by multiple grant partners.

On April 29, the council officially launched the Hampton Roads Partnership for Health Sciences — a collaboration of employers, educators and economic development professionals. Hampton Roads Workforce Council President and CEO Shawn Avery said the effort is about creating an ecosystem and coordination among the partners as they zero in on the industry’s needs, including mental health care.

“We know it’s in dire need of workforce efforts,” he said.

The council spent the past five years focused on the maritime industry and is now ready to turn its focus on everything that’s associated with the health care industry, Avery said. Lessons learned from the maritime programs will be incorporated into the health care programs, he said.

A number of grants and in-kind support are fueling the partnership, including $150,000 from Dominion Energy, $125,000 from Sentara Health, $25,000 from Riverside Health System, $600,000 from Claude Moore Charitable Foundation, $110,000 from Bank of America and $10,000 from Jobs for the Future.

“We normally spend between 25% to 45% of our training dollars on the health care industry every year regardless, but now we really need to start working with our educational partners,” Avery said.

Hampton Roads Workforce Council President and CEO Shawn Avery (Courtesy photo)
Hampton Roads Workforce Council President and CEO Shawn Avery (Courtesy)

That work will include developing pipelines and pathways, identifying gaps in the educational and training systems and working hard to fill those gaps, he said. The first step will be to conduct a demand analysis with local health care systems and providers to identify the key areas in need.

“We know nursing will be one and mental health will be a big one as well, but we really need to know exactly what they need so that we’re not developing programs or putting people through training that’s not going to be in demand,” he said.

The partnership will glean lessons from the Blue Ridge Partnership for Health Science Careers, a similar well-established blueprint in the western part of the commonwealth, said Whitney Lester, the council’s senior director of talent development.

The workforce council uses a methodology that examines the workforce pipeline from the employer’s perspective, Lester said. Once it drills down on the area’s specific needs in health care, the organization. will be able to help solve the problem.

Whitney Lester, senior director of talent development, Hampton Roads Workforce Council
Whitney Lester, senior director of talent development, Hampton Roads Workforce Council

“It’s about putting people into the system and making sure the system is strong enough, focused and doing exactly what the business community needs,” Lester said.

Sandra J. Pennecke, 757-652-5836, [email protected]

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