Every other month, Medical News catches up with a healthcare leader in our state for a special feature where they answer questions about their interests outside of work, favorite pieces of advice and healthcare issues that ruffle their feathers most.
Education: Earned bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, and MBA from Sullivan University.
Organizations: Currently participating in the 2017 Leadership Louisville Bingham Fellowship program and the Talent Pipeline Management Institute with the United States Chamber of Commerce.
Previous Employers: Sullivan University and The Oliver Group
Medical News: As the healthcare environment continues to evolve, what workforce challenges do healthcare companies in Kentucky face?
Beth Davisson: With the surge of baby boomers retiring, Kentucky, like the rest of the country, does not have the workforce to replace them. In some sense, it’s a numbers game. Within the changing healthcare environment, the demand for patient care is up, while the credentials, experience, and education needed are much more specific and critical. That makes the narrowing pot of candidates even slimmer.
MN: What are the top three challenges that healthcare companies in Kentucky face when looking for new employees?
BD: Many employers have several candidates applying, but often they don’t have the right skills or experience needed. There also is a lot of churn in healthcare, with employees leaving one employer for a competitor, often for just a small salary increase, and in response employers are engaging in wage wars. Finally, employers find they need to become much more innovative in how they recruit, retain and develop employees.
MN: How should healthcare companies in Kentucky work with educational institutions to develop the future workforce?
BD: It is imperative that companies be involved with school systems as the greatest source of talent and future employees. However, this relationship also needs to be redefined in a manner that is more beneficial for the employer. There is a lot of disconnect between what is provided in education and what is needed in the workforce. The private sector must be more involved in letting educators know what they need, and educators and workforce and training providers, must respond more quickly to address those needs.
MN: What policies does Kentucky need to implement to help train the next generation of healthcare employees?
BD: The Kentucky Chamber’s Workforce Center is a first of its kind across the nation and is focused on ensuring that businesses have a leadership role and stronger voice in workforce planning, programming and policy. Businesses have to play a central role, and we need to work from a supply and demand system as we provide education and workforce training. A statewide essential skills measure is also vital. Businesses are quick to say the lack of essential skills – employees showing up on time, working well with others, taking responsibility for their actions and similar traits – is a major challenge in their workplace. Accountability measures in the K-12 system to help ensure students are drug free, reliable, have a work ethic and understand team work are critical to helping create a stronger workforce.
MN: What are other states in our region doing to address workforce challenges in the healthcare sector?
BD: While much of the nation is experiencing the same issues, there are a few states that are really coming out ahead in the race for talent. Louisville tends to compare itself to Nashville, and there was a time when the landscapes of Tennessee and Kentucky did not look that different. This is no longer the case, and Nashville is having more success in attracting talent and economic growth. Many attribute that to Nashville’s music scene, more affordable postsecondary education or the presence of Vanderbilt University, and there is some truth in that. However, the city’s healthcare landscape is incredibly strong. They have become a national hub for this sector and have done extremely well scaling up their healthcare talent. Thus, they have a well-educated and experienced workforce in healthcare, creating a ripple effect of attracting more businesses and talent in all sectors. In Tennessee, the public, private and education sectors appear to have figured out how to work together under a unified plan instead of functioning in independent silos. With the release of many education and training-related grants, and the active involvement of employers, Kentucky has this same opportunity. Louisville has all of the right ingredients to get there. The good work that is now happening in pockets needs to become the norm, not the exception.
Kentucky’s low workforce participation rate is the focus of a report “Workforce Participation in Kentucky” released by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.