Fostering Collaboration to Strengthen Hawaii’s Talent Pipeline

By Beau Boice

Project Director, Hawaii Initiatives, Strada Education Network

Maui County Pilot Creates Pathway to In-Demand Healthcare Jobs

Through Strada’s recent work in the state of Hawaii, industry collaboration is driving innovation and strengthening the talent pipeline in Maui County’s healthcare system with an ambitious goal in mind: bring key stakeholders together to improve health outcomes for residents of the islands while creating pathways to in-demand healthcare careers for aspiring students.

The natural beauty of the islands of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai is breathtaking, of course, but beneath the shade of palm trees lives a strong, tight-knit community with instincts toward collaboration. Home to  almost 12 percent of the state’s residents, Maui County has encountered challenges regarding talent development for key industries. Many born on Maui migrate to Oahu or to the mainland United States for education and  employment opportunities. But the Maui Economic Development Board, supported by the University of Hawaii System and Strada Education Network, is piloting a practical, yet inventive approach to help county health leaders better align their work, solve important problems, and plan for the future.

The approach works like this: first, they bring healthcare experts, industry leaders and educators  together to discuss opportunities for sector growth and any snags that might get in the way. Together, the group comes to a consensus about one or two key priorities to tackle. Finally, those same key stakeholders become champions of these priorities and take on the responsibility of seeing them through.

When they first came together around the table in March 2017, as the Maui County Healthcare Partnership (MCHP), Maui County’s healthcare leaders recognized something important: Many of the issues they faced as individual organizations were shared by their colleagues across the healthcare field. Instead of competing as they tried to serve a population of 166,000 residents, they understood that close collaboration was the path not only to growing their sector for all, but also to making a greater impact on the health of the community.

Healthcare industry leaders quickly focused on a challenge they all shared: too many of their young people were leaving the islands to pursue careers, resulting in a shortage of local, qualified healthcare workers to support their work.

“The education of our young people — so they are the skilled workforce of the future — is a common goal we can all get behind,” said Leslie Wilkins, president and CEO of the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB).

Partnering with educators and leveraging state funds, the MCHP collaborative developed a Nurse Aide training program and an apprenticeship program to train licensed practical nurses who are now working for local healthcare providers. Their credentials can also ladder toward additional education, creating an even stronger pathway to careers as registered nurses or other healthcare workers.

Today, 135 healthcare organizations are participating in the collaborative effort in Maui County, extending  Strada’s previous Oahu work with the University of Hawaii, connecting education with careers across the state. And we’re far from finished.

Seven similar industry sector partnerships have launched in key industries on the islands, such as engineering on Oahu and agriculture on Kauai. We hope that this collaborative approach will be replicated across the state to create purposeful pathways for job-seekers and growth opportunities for industry leaders.

Based on what we’ve already seen across Maui County’s healthcare system, we are only inspired to do more.