A Growing Priority for Funders: Training Young People of Color for Healthcare Jobs

"Want Job Security? Get Into Healthcare." Or so advised U.S. News and World Report last year. It presented data showing that over half of the fastest-growing fields over the next decade will be in healthcare. 

That's not surprising, given that millions of boomers are having more health problems as they age, and given that the Affordable Care Act is bringing millions of new people into the healthcare system. 

One implication of this employment trend is that it opens up opportunities for young workers looking to establish careers and, in particular, offers a chance for kids of color to avoid dead-end jobs and get on the ladder to a middle-class life. To be sure, plenty of healthcare jobs lead nowhere, but the sector also needs skilled workers at varying levels, and the pay for these jobs can be good. 

Which explains why many foundations interested in workforce and economic opportunity have focused attention on programs that pave the way for careers in healthcare. For example, we've written about how the Mott Foudation sees expanding job opportunities in healthcare in its hometown of Flint, MI, as one key to reviving employment in that battered city. 

Related - What Mott's $9 Million Grant Means for Flint and Michigan State University

But some funders have another motive for bringing young people of color into these fields: to expand the number of non-white healthcare providers. Why? Because research shows that many minorities seeking healthcare prefer minority providers and will be more inclined to get the care they need if they are connected to such providers. And there are major shortages of healthcare providers in minority communities, particularly in rural areas, and this problem is getting worse as the Affordable Care Act extends coverage to more people, with an especially large impact in the South. Minority providers are more likely to set up shop in these places. 

Which is to say that training people of color for healthcare jobs kills two birds with one stone: It provides opportunity while increasing access to coverage. 

Recently, we wrote about this strategy in the context of W.K. Kellogg Foundation's funding of the American Dental Education Association. 

Related - Why This Giant Foundation Thinks Dental Care Is So Important

But another player in this space is the California Wellness Foundation. CWF has a new umbrella program, called Advancing Wellness, which is devoted to addressing health disparities in three main ways: by bridging the gaps in access and quality care; promoting healthy and safe neighborhoods; and expanding education and employment pathways. 

And while the program's big picture is "grounded in the research on the social determinants of health," and has set out a wide-ranging grantmaking agenda, it looks as if the nexus between healthcare jobs, economic opportunity, and healthcare access is much on its mind, judging by some recipients of a recent $11.3 million round of grants. 

The foundation gave to seven separate initiatives that are devoted to getting minority students into health professions. The grants list is interesting to look at because it gives you a sense of the different kinds of players in this crucial and expanding space:

  • $150,000 over three years to the Charles Drew University of Medicine & Science, to train health professions students from minority communities;
  • $150,000 over three years to Community Initiatives/Educators for Fair Consideration, to support their Pre-Health Dreamer project;
  • $200,000 over two years to support the Next Generation Leaders of Color Leadership Development Program at CompassPoint Nonprofit Services;
  • $150,000 over three years for Health Professions Education Foundation, to aid in loan repayment for underrepresented and disadvantaged health professions students;
  • $150,000 over three years to Social Justice Learning Institute, Inc., to provide academic support to Latino and African American young men interested in pursuing health careers;
  • $300,000 over three years to Uncommon Good, to provide debt relief to minority physicians;
  • and $150,000 over three years to Yes 2 Kollege Educational Resources, Inc., to provide health career guidance to students of color interested in health careers.