Peer recognition initiative of National Fund for Workforce Solutions highlights health care providers dedicated to building equitable, inclusive workplaces through worker-centered workforce development programs
Burlington, Vt. – The University of Vermont Health Network has been recognized as a national leader for wide-ranging workforce development initiatives by a nationwide health care networking and strategy organization, for an innovative assortment of career training and continuing education programs that serve both employees and members of the community.
The National Fund for Workforce Solutions today named UVM Health Network as one of its 2023 Champion award winners for the CareerSTAT Frontline Healthcare Worker program – a peer recognition initiative that highlights organizations which create good jobs and build equitable workplace by making significant investments in frontline workers.
“UVM Health Network is honored to be recognized as a workforce development champion that is dedicated to building an equitable and inclusive workplace as we strive to address the longstanding workforce shortages impacting health care organizations nationwide,” said Jerald Novak, Chief People Officer of UVM Health Network. “With a focus on reinvesting in our people and the communities we serve, and supporting non-traditional learners, we are building innovative pathways for individuals pursuing in-demand health care careers across our region.”
Equitable and Innovative Workforce Development
In 2019, UVM Health Network - Central Vermont Medical Center (CVMC), pioneered a Licensed Practical Nursing Pathway program that allowed employees to work a reduced schedule and maintain full-time salary and benefits while attending school. The program, which leverages a partnership with two local educational institutions, both supports students’ educational costs and provides paid study hours. Following this inaugural program launch, the UVM Health Network and its seven partners across Vermont and northern New York have since expanded to develop a wide-ranging portfolio of sustainable workforce development programs. These initiatives offer increased collaborations with several additional community partners and educational institutions.
The Pathway programs, developed following a series of focus groups engaging frontline employees, place an emphasis on providing innovative educational and funding models to support non-traditional learners and working adults. With the goal of increasing educational access to a wider demographic, the UVM Health Network partners focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to broaden its workforce representation. At the University of Vermont Medical Center, 50 percent of the currently enrolled students in the nursing pathway program identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) – groups which make up just six percent of the region’s total population. This focus on DEI has amplified the work done within the network. Since 1998, UVM Medical Center, which employs individuals from more than 40 different countries, has provided paid English as a Second Language (ESL) and English Language Learners (ELL) classes to more than 175 employees who have gone on to healthcare careers ranging from environmental services to nursing.
In 2022, the Network’s workforce development pathway initiatives expanded even further to include additional allied health programs for in-demand careers including respiratory therapy, laboratory, radiology and surgical services. An official centralized Workforce Development team was created to harmonize and scale programs for all network employees. This work increases sight across partners in order to increase access and offerings to all employees. Additionally, the programs have enabled a wider number of participants to work within the Network and access these pathway programs. This has benefited not only themselves and their families, but also their local communities where they are able to both live and work.
As of September, Health Network officials said, about 600 frontline employees across UVM Health Network had participated in one of the Network’s workforce development programs. UVM Health Network employs approximately 15,000 individuals; 5,000 of those employees are considered frontline workers.
Organizations recognized by CareerSTAT as Champions create a worker-centered culture of learning and leverage their influence to create organizational and regional change that helps employers, workers and communities thrive. Honorees are selected for using workforce development strategies that promote racial equity and inclusion, accessible training and skills development opportunities, and frontline career progression.
“As we strive to tackle structural racial inequalities that have held many individuals back, we are proud to recognize health care organizations whose work reflects our vision of ensuring that all workers have the resources they need to thrive, that race does not dictate employment outcomes, and that all jobs are good jobs,” said Amanda Cage, President and CEO of The National Fund for Workforce Solutions.
“This year’s honorees represent the great strides our field is making toward equitable investing in the frontline workforce,” said Anita Hammond, a member of the CareerSTAT executive committee who participated in this year’s selection process.
CareerSTAT is a healthcare sector strategy of the National Fund and a peer-led recognition program, which highlights innovation within workforce development programs is core to the Fund’s mission. CareerSTAT and the Frontline Healthcare worker Champions program are made possible through generous support from the MetLife Foundation and the World Education Services (WES) Mariam Assefa Fund.
“The WES Mariam Assefa Fund congratulates this year’s awardees for their commitment to creating more worker-centered, equitable workplaces. As a funder focused on supporting economic inclusion for immigrants and refugees, who make up a large part of our health care workforce, we are excited to support the National Fund’s CareerSTAT program and to see health care employers supporting access to quality jobs for their frontline workers,” said Lauren Crain, director of US programs and strategy at the WES Mariam Assefa Fund.