Jump to main content

Jewish Healthcare Foundation

Jewish Healthcare Foundation to establish Pittsburgh's first Center for Complementary Learning

December 20, 2006

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation has earmarked $200,000 to establish a Center for Complementary Learning in Health Care.

The new Center is intended to serve as a prototype for others that would give the region's students exposure to economic sectors in which there are jobs, while providing employers and educators an opportunity to collaborate to prepare students for the demands of the workplace.

The health careers Center will foster partnerships between schools, employers and community organizations to give students the complementary, hands-on learning opportunities they need to better understand healthcare occupations as well as to find out about the educational requirements for pursuing these jobs. The first such partnership, to be developed in Pittsburgh's East End, would begin a demonstration project during 2007.

Among other things, the partnerships would call on employers to clearly define the "skills gap" they confront in recruiting employees and would call on schools to develop curricula that meet employers'requirements.

State projections suggest that some subsectors of the healthcare industry will expand by as much as 20 percent by 2012. Already, however, healthcare employers report difficulty filling jobs that require a high school diploma because as few as 10 percent to 20 percent of applicants have the necessary skills in reading, math and communications.

Expectations among particpating schools, employers and students could be set forth in 'contracts' so that rigorous standards are set, understood and achieved. Complementary learning opportunities for students would include both exposure and experience: speakers, open houses, field trips, job shadowing, mentoring and internships, among other things. Advanced opportunities such as internships would be reserved for high school students, but opportunities for exposure to career information could begin as early as elementary school.

The healthcare learning center will be established and run by Health Careers Futures (HCF), an operating arm of JHF. The Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board (WIB) encouraged HCF to take on this role because of its experience in developing programs to stabilize and strengthen the region's healthcare workforce.

HCF would build on models such as those developed by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The hope is that success with a Center for Complementary Learning in Healthcare might pave the way for additional centers in other fields likely to provide job opportunities for students in the region, such as financial services, biotechnology or information technology.

"It's very hard for many students to get any first-hand knowledge of a field that offers career possibilities," said David Malone, President and Chief Executive Officer of Gateway Financial Group and Chairman of the Pennsylvania Workforce Investment Board."These centers would serve as pathways to sectors where projections indicate the region will need employees."

"There's no better example of an industry where we can help students find rewarding, jobs with established career ladders than healthcare," said JHF President and Chief Executive Karen Feinstein. "This also is a sector whose hiring needs already exceed the pool of qualified applicants."

Dr. Feinstein said that the Center will provide a "missing link" that connects the academics of traditional schooling with the skill demands, productivity and meaning of real work.

"We're gratified that the Conference and the Three Rivers WIB recognize the leadership that HCF has provided in supporting the healthcare sector's employee recruitment and retention efforts," Dr. Feinstein added.

HCF grew out of a workforce summit organized nearly six years ago to assess the region's healthcare employment needs. Since then, it has developed "pipeline" programs to draw secondary school students into health careers and also has provided training to improve retention of incumbent workers. Under a grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, for example, HCF supports establishment of health career clubs in Fayette County high schools. HCF also distributes a "took-kit" and hosts a Web portal to acquaint students and adults with health career options.

For more information, please contact Pamela Gaynor, Director of Communications and External Relations at 412-594-2581 or gaynor@jhf.org.

Programs & Projects