The Health Management Academy

Episode 3

Creating a Sustainable Healthcare Workforce Pipeline, featuring Van Ton-Quinlivan

Featuring Van Ton-Quinlivan

Episode Description

In this episode, Renee DeSilva sits down with Van Ton-Quinlivan, the CEO of Futuro Health, to understand how the innovative non-profit is helping address the allied health worker pipeline issues in California and beyond. As part of the conversation, they cover the future of work, evolving education models, and advice for healthcare organizations looking to address their shortages.

Highlights from the conversation:

• Why workforce development is a team sport (5:25)

• The story of Futuro Health’s founding (6:54)

• How to scale the Futuro model outside California (12:25)

• The evolution of adult education models (15:48)

• What Futuro Health looks like in 10 years (19:26)

• Van’s fish story and how it relates to partnership in workforce development (21:04)

• Why Van would invite ChatGPT and a worker to her Table (23:58)

About Our Guest

Van Ton-Quinlivan, CEO, Futuro Health

Van Ton-Quinlivan is a nationally recognized thinker and do-er in workforce development and a catalyst for inclusive economic mobility through higher education. Her distinguished career spans the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Currently, Ton-Quinlivan is the CEO of Futuro Health, whose nonprofit mission is to improve the health and wealth of communities by growing the largest network of allied healthcare workers in the nation. She is an appointee of Governor Newsom to the Health Workforce Education and Training Council responsible for coordinating California’s health workforce education and training to meet the state’s needs.


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Renee DeSilva 0:00
Welcome back to The Table. I’m Renee DeSilva, CEO of The Health Management Academy, and your host. To continue our early season workforce conversations, I’m excited to welcome Van Ton-Quinlivan who serves as CEO of Futuro Health, and is a nationally recognized leader on workforce development. For those of you who may not know, Futuro Health is a not for profit formed in early 2020, through a partnership between Kaiser Permanente and the Service Employees International Union and uncommon combination, their mission is ambitious yet straightforward, trained 10,000 allied health professionals in California by 2024, and then expand that model nationwide from there. Here are a few of my takeaways from our conversation. First, Futuro’s success in California are notable. So far they’ve graduated 8000 scholars and 90% have ethnically diverse backgrounds. For individuals, their model is engaging historically underrepresented communities and enabling economic mobility from within. For employers that’s helping address seemingly intractable issues around the talent pipeline and getting much further upfront of that cultivation. Next, listen for some of the rate limiters of scale. Beyond funding for scholarships. It’s also about having employers that are ready to partner for training programs, and being able to activate local organizations with deep connections to the community. I loved how Von described this – workforce is a team sport. And finally, we couldn’t discuss the health workforce without diving into the role of technology and AI. Von is a firm believer in AI as a tool that will augment but not replace jobs. In turn, that means data and tech literacy will be queen. And Von shared some great insights on the implications for the future of continuing education and credentialing. With that, let’s head to the Table. Von . So happy to have you at the Academy Table. Welcome.

Van Ton-Quinlivan 2:19
Thanks so much for having me, Renee.

Renee DeSilva 2:21
So we have not yet met before. But I am just fascinated by all of your work and expertise on workforce development. Before we dive into that, why don’t you give me a sense for your background and how you landed and the work that you’re doing today?

Van Ton-Quinlivan 2:36
Well, I’m delighted to be a member of the Academy now. And my graduate education came from Stanford, but really my workforce development chops came from having done this in the private sector, the public sector, and now the nonprofit sector in Fedora halls. So back when I was in the private sector working for a company of 20,000, men and women, I took that company from having no opinion, in workforce development to actually becoming a nationally recognized best practice. And then went on to become Executive Vice Chancellor of the largest system of higher education, which is actually the California Community Colleges. And then after that, I’m so delighted to be able to apply my workforce chops really, to address and grow the next generation of allied health workers in the nation.

Renee DeSilva 3:27
There’s a lot to unpack there, I wanted to just it’s interesting to be how you started in gas and utilities. And then the work that you did for the community college system of California does expand on that a bit. That’s another industry higher education that has had to go through a level of transformation. So just what was the what were you out to really inflect as part of that community college, which is such an important part of really educating so many people to say a little bit more about that work, if you would?

Van Ton-Quinlivan 3:53
Well, you know, there’s, there’s a common strand between my last job with the computer colleges and my current job with Futuro Health. I came to the United States actually out of the Vietnam War. And so if you think about the Ukraine war, my family was displaced. And we came to the United States. And I was very fortunate to benefit from the education system that was here. And so I feel like the work that I’ve been doing with the community college in order to bring workforce from being an afterthought to it actually a policy priority. Because anything that his policy priority also has resources, right. So I was able to grow public investment in workforce programs from $100 million to over a billion dollars by the time that I had left. And then in so in that capacity and in my fedora health capacity. I do feel like I’m paying for an opportunity, like the opportunities I had when I first came to the United States.

Renee DeSilva 4:53
That’s fantastic. So mission animates you as a leader. That’s very clear. So Von there is is a there is a known really crisis level proportion on identifying and getting talent ready to take on jobs across healthcare. And I think you and I might say that there is an invisible workforce that is ready and willing to really step in, but we need to meet them where they are. So that’s a big part of what animates your work. So talk to me about how you how you think about that.

Van Ton-Quinlivan 5:25
Absolutely. I think it’s a real myth, that there are not enough people in the communities that are interested in these good jobs. I mean, if you think about the 5 million who are unemployed, as well as others who want to transition to health care, we do need to meet them where they are. And it is possible to create a reliable, quality and diverse pipeline. But we have to do that with intentionality. And the first misconception that we need to overcome, especially for employers is that you must do it alone. Workforce development is really a team sport, not an individual sport. And especially in working with the Allied Health walls, and connecting communities, diverse communities, rural communities to these jobs, we’re better off working together and bringing what we all do best to workforce development, that’s how we will have a reliable quality and diverse pipeline.

Renee DeSilva 6:21
And so let’s let’s go deeper there. Through your work at Futuro. You have maybe brought together some maybe, you know, maybe unanticipated partners, so I’ll let you bring it to life. But I think some of your early work was grounded in Kaiser Permanente, along with the service employer, Employees International Union union, so SEIU plus Kaiser coming together to really try to overwhelm the workforce challenges, how did that maybe unlikely connection between those parties really come to life? Talk to us about that?

Van Ton-Quinlivan 6:54
Well, this is a moment in time when unusual allies can come together, and healthcare systems are naturally competitive. But again, you know, this is a team sport and not an individual sport when it comes to developing this type of talent pool. And so the founding of Futuro Health was that Kaiser Permanente, which as you know, is a big healthcare system, and their union SEIU, you HW came together, and pledged the funds to create the nonprofit for rural health. And, and we launched three months ahead of the pandemic. And our role was to figure out a solution where we could bring diverse communities into these healthcare roles starting at the entry level, but solve it with also attention to diversity. So you never give up diversity as as you also build for scale. And we’re happy to report that in the 1000s, and 1000s, and 1000s of adults, diverse adults that we’ve touched, you know, in years one and two, we were at 80%, diversity. And year three, the end of last year, we actually achieve 90% diversity. And it was a range, no matter the range of occupations. So ranging from 1000s of medical assistants to phlebotomist, to pharmacy tech to health IT specialist of sterile processing, tech, you name it, it was a big gamut of occupations that are in demand by employers, and we were able to unlock diversity and bring them into education pathways to get their healthcare credential. So that it can be done. Again, the traditional playbooks don’t really work to the extent that are needed. And so we need to think about out of the box and employ some out of the box solutions.

Renee DeSilva 8:45
So that’s impressive, I love you call your your folks scholars. And I love that you’re really thinking through preparing them for these for these roles. I guess my first question would be how, what advice would you give to healthcare companies or healthcare systems across the country around how you thought about that? So I loved your to do this, you have to have a level of intentionality. So what’s the one thing that you’d say folks should really think about as they contemplate a path like the one that you’re that you’ve embarked on?

Van Ton-Quinlivan 9:17
So Renee, I had a chance to meet with Forum’s of CEOs and CEOs of health systems in DC in New York and in Orange County. One of the facts that there was was more new to them was that there’s actually declining and shrinking K 12 demographic, so your traditional pool of hiring, if it was, if your sourcing channel came from, you know, sort of that traditional path of high schoolers moving to college, you really need to be on the lookout, that of this demographic shift. And then, of course, everybody knows that the boomers are exiting and of course they they are bringing a lot of their experience with them. So Where is the talent? Yeah, correct, the action is at the adult level. And that’s been a lot harder for many employers, which is how do you do a large, you know how to cast the net a bit wider to bring individuals, individuals from diverse and rural communities who maybe haven’t participated, and to meet them where they are. And what we’ve also discovered is that there’s an onboarding process that’s going to be super critical for them. So all of our scholars, the average age 29, as I mentioned, are 90% diverse, and actually, they’re 52%, bilingual. All of that will contribute to better health equity at the end of the pipeline, of course, what we discovered was starting them immediately on the technical program, the technical training at at all of our partner colleges wasn’t wasn’t going to do it, they actually need a transition a softer on ramp in back into higher education, because it has been a while, maybe they didn’t have, you know, an excellent experience with higher education the first time. And, in addition, they needed to get their family situation ready so that they could actually do the hours in higher education. So we have put, we cut over last year. So all several 1000s of our Futuro Health scholars all went through a curriculum called human touch healthcare. They’re taught by facilitators with healthcare experience. And that’s been a great curriculum to meet them where they’re at, and to ready them for success in their technical program later on.

Renee DeSilva 11:49
I think that’s really powerful, the softer on ramp back into the workforce and doing it in a way where it’s a bit more bite sized. And people are able to really, maybe embed that into their work. So if you think about I mean, what you’re doing is incredible. I’m as you’re talking, I’m thinking through not only are you filling jobs, but you’re really changing the trajectory of people’s lives in terms of getting them into the middle class at scale, given that health systems and providers play pay a strong wage across most of these roles. So what’s what’s getting in the way? What’s the obstacle to doing this more broadly and more at scale, if any?

Speaker 2 12:25
Well, renowned, you know, the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. And McKinsey came to me, and they were looking at the data and they said, Hey, for these 5.9 million unemployed, look at all these good jobs in health care, how do we actually move people, you know, from where they are to these good health care jobs. And so what I know is that every state, every state is going to need to create their proportional share of healthcare workers, especially in the allied health. So what would make for a warmer invitation for for tour how to, to enter that state and be of help to employers, really, we’re looking for three things. I mean, we’re looking for funds that would underwrite the scholarships, really, the that is one of the friction points, the level of debt that people get into in order to get that first credential. So being able to remove that friction ism is is very helpful to diverse communities. Second, are there employers who are ready for the clinicals and the hiring, to be part of the design work? And then three, if there are some natural channels, we can activate community based organizations in order to add to it in mass creating a scouting and recruiting channel to bring people into the scholarship role. So the good news is that we’re built for scale, and we perform even better at scale. That’s fantastic. Oh, and we’ve been invited now to enter Connecticut and Florida, thanks to the support of a big foundation. So if there’s other employers in those areas,

Renee DeSilva 13:59
please should reach out. Yeah, yes, we can just say so just for context. At the Academy, we do about 80 live events a year. And we do that across multiple roles. And every every agenda is all about solving workforce challenges. And it’s not just highly technical roles. I mean, they feel as constrained around certainly allied workers, and sometimes it’s hospitals. Sometimes it’s hospitality, or, or, you know, Environmental Services staff. So there seems like there’s this mismatch and I love that you’re getting to the heart of that matter by really unlocking some of these barriers. And I know that many of there’s a couple of Academy members that work with you, Sutter and Stanford health as to examples of that. I think that’s fantastic. Let me then maybe zoom out a bit. So the other maybe force here on workforce trends is around how how are you thinking about the way in which technology AI automation, maybe shifts the conversations or or what are you seeing coming around the corner as well? Let’s just broader trends on workforce as it relates to some of these newer technologies.

Van Ton-Quinlivan 15:05
Well, I do know that in the forum was with those CEOs, healthcare CEOs in DC, New York, and in Orange County, you know, when they looked at the shifting demographics of where the workforce would come from, one of their natural conclusion was more we need to automate. And so you know, as more and more technologies get ingested into the world of care, and also as care shifts to the home, clearly, our future is going to be one where we’re we’re going to be partnered and paired with technology, augmented by technology much more, you know, Tom Mitchell, who built the first machine learning science program at Carnegie Mellon University,

Renee DeSilva 15:45
I listen to your podcast with him. Yes, yes.

Van Ton-Quinlivan 15:48
So he’s, you know, he’s writing the report back to Congress on AI and the workforce. And, you know, he, he always caveats that it’s not us versus the technology, it’s how do we work with technology and augments and key for us will be? How can humans continuously learn and adapt? So Rene, that brings me up, you know, to think, you know, in the, in the, in the past, when we were growing up, we only had one unit of education, which was the degree, right? That’s four years, two years, you know, two years, four years and more. But given how quickly things are changing, and the shelf life of skills are shortening, what you’re beginning to see in higher education is modularity, right? Businesses know this. So it’s how do you do competencies? And how do you do digital badging? And how do you add them up up into a micro credential? And how do you embed microcredentials into degree, so the stackability of this learning is going to be very important because especially in healthcare, licensure requirements, often are pegged at the degree. But for most people, if you if you look at the studies on adults, and their interest in moving into occupations, they’re very willing to acquire new skills, but they’re not willing to commit to a degree right away, because there’s so much uncertainty in the labor market. So, you know, put out the teaser in the credentials and the microcredentials, build their skills, and then that then you begin to pathway them up to towards the degree requirements of, you know, added occupation

Renee DeSilva 17:32
that’s really powerful. This, you know, I’m putting in my own words, but this micro dosing, if you will, and stacking experiences, it sort of makes a lot of sense in terms of how adults learn, right, like more bite sized portions that are maybe layered with where you are and your day to day professional work. So I love the way that that you that you think about that. And then I’d reflect we have a number of conversations with our members around what you just said that the future of care delivery, the future of health might be more of a AI, human dyad models of care, which we’re in the very early innings of, but just thinking through what does that mean, in terms of how work gets done, I think is a really powerful question that all of us as leaders should be asking ourselves,

Van Ton-Quinlivan 18:17
right. And if you were to, you know, there’s one thing that you can hedge, it’s just that literacy with technology, literacy with data will always become will be a valued skill set. Right? Absolutely. No matter what the care that you’re practicing.

Renee DeSilva 18:31
Absolutely. So we’ve been talking a lot about how employment in the way that that that workers engaged with their employers begins to shift over time and how we begin to meet that challenge. I guess, if you and I are sitting back down together, and five or 10 years, what does the future of your company look like? Just given how quickly the workforce needs are changing and evolving?

Speaker 2 19:26
Well, Renee, I expect that in five to 10 years, employers will be asking for Futuro Health graduates by name because they they can expect that the graduates come with a focus on the durable interpersonal skills as well as the technical skills. You know, we would love to be the trusted partner to employers as well as states to develop a systemic approach a systemic approach, a systems approach to workforce development. Certainly with all the intentionality, we can, we can bring individuals communities into the workforce pipeline so that employers can have the reliable, quality, and diverse talent pool that they need.

Renee DeSilva 20:17
I love that vision and so, so needed. And, you know, you can imagine, I love that you’re focused on healthcare, but I think the model could extend beyond healthcare just in terms of just overall as an economy, this need to continue to keep our citizens updated, and really deploy them on on big gaps in terms of ways in which we can create just greater sort of wealth building for all of them and for all of us. So I love that. I love the mission of what you do. I was the chief talent officer before this job. So anything on development and leadership and all of that, just like to me, it’s just such a fun way to spend some time. So it sounds like you have a very, very fun job, that I’m a little bit envious of it great work that you’re doing.

Van Ton-Quinlivan 20:58
Renee, is there enough time for me to tell my fish story.

Renee DeSilva 21:01
There’s always time for a fish story.

Van Ton-Quinlivan 21:04
You know, I talked about workforce development being a team sport rather than an individual sport. And and I’d love to share my fish story. And, you know, when I was in the energy sector, we were doing workforce development, because we had 25 to 50% of the industry’s workforce on the verge of retirement over the next decade. So again, we had to have some intentionality going in. And so we had done exactly the model of workforce development with the educators closing the gap on the skills, we had our community based organization doing the outreach. And here we were, I was on the employer side, articulating what we needed, as well as doing the hiring. Well, all of that came together. And there was a group of individuals created and completing the program. And then we put them through exactly the same pre employment testing method. So there was no shortcut, no bypass, right? There was just one individual that the supervisors love. But then he disappeared from the list on the other end. And we looked into it, and asked why, because we were in this workforce development program, we asked why. And it turned out, the young man had gone fishing when he was 15. And at 15, he caught a fish that was too small and got a ticket. Well, at 15, he didn’t pay the ticket, oh, my gosh, and then it went to court. And at 15, he didn’t show up in court, and it became a felony. So here’s this individual who didn’t know he had a felony, which would have precluded him from working at most of these jobs in the energy sector and didn’t know it, and, frankly, would have precluded him from working in the healthcare sector as well. And because we were in this workforce development, collaboration, you know, normally employers would just say, Thank you, but no, thank you, we turn to our partners who were able to work with him to expunge the record. And he became a great employee. That’s right, it’s just too much for an employer to take on. And frankly, you could give him five degrees. And that would have solved his problem, it took the third, let you know, the third leg of partnership, which is the community organization to solve.

Renee DeSilva 23:18
Thank you for sharing that. That’s, that’s, that’s really powerful. And, and maybe just a reminder that there are things that are built into processes around employment that can be rate limiting for people. And so I love that example of the community with an employer coming together to really get get around solving that. So maybe I have one final question for you, which is one that I asked all of my guests, which is if you could invite, we spent a lot of time we call this the table because we love just having different voices animate on healthcare issues, and sometimes outside of healthcare issues. So if you had if you could invite any two people to continue this conversation at your table? Who would you pick? And why?

Van Ton-Quinlivan 23:58
Ooh, that, you know, what would be fun, is we would pick the chat GPT to join the table. And then of course, I think you always have to have the voice of the worker, because they will keep you real in terms of what are the frictions, that’s preventing them from joining the workforce?

Renee DeSilva 24:19
Absolutely. I’m fascinated by chat GPT. I’m wondering, maybe I’ll start to try to see if they come up with the question guide for our for my for my podcast. But yes, I think that the human touch and really getting into mission and why people are motivated to do the work is is something that just is so important. So I appreciate all the work that you’re doing. I think every healthcare organization, just given how intractable the labor issues are, should be thinking about a model around workforce development that gets much earlier up the funnel in terms of developing the next bench of talent. So appreciate all the work that you and your colleagues are doing to that stead.

Van Ton-Quinlivan 24:57
Well, Renee, we’re welcoming and inviting In employers who are struggling with their workforce issues to contact us, we’re at dub dub dub for rural So please reach out to us because it you know, we want to know, we’re built for scale, and to solve the, the workforce issues that they’re facing.

Renee DeSilva 25:19
That’s excellent. Well, thank you so much Von, a pleasure chatting with you. And I hope that I will see you at an academy event at some point soon. Looking forward to it. Thank you again, Rene. Thank you. Thanks for joining me at the table with Rene de Silva, a podcast brought to you by the Health Management Academy. I hope you enjoyed this episode. And if you did, subscribe, and drop us a review on Apple podcast, Spotify, or wherever you’re listening to this podcast now for all of our episodes, including show notes and transcripts and more information about how you might join me at the table in the future, please head to H M. I look forward to having you back at my table next time. Talk to you again soon.