Public Policy Forum Blog

Meeting the workforce development needs of healthcare employers in southeast Wisconsin

A Public Policy Forum survey of healthcare employers finds that despite near-record unemployment rates in the region, southeast Wisconsin’s healthcare sector faces a distinctive challenge: finding sufficient numbers of qualified and trained workers to fill current and future job openings. Survey respondents said applicant quality (60.7%) and retaining qualified workers (30.2%) are the biggest challenges they face in meeting their organizations’ workforce needs. Gaps in applicants’ basic skills, especially soft skills such as professionalism, team skills and verbal communication, also make it harder for healthcare employers to recruit and hire competent job candidates.

The recent survey of 28 healthcare facilities included the four largest hospital systems in Southeast Wisconsin, as well as nursing and residential care facilities such as medical offices and diagnostics labs.

Respondents said current job openings are greatest for registered nurses and nursing aides and attendants. However, a significant number of respondents were unwilling or unable to provide data on current job openings or predict how demand for healthcare professionals will change in the next one to three years.

This is important because lack of job growth data limits the ability of workforce development officials to adjust regional workforce development training resources to address healthcare employers’ short-term needs. Nevertheless, the challenges indentified in the survey point to areas for regional workforce development organizations and area healthcare employers to work together to increase the supply of healthcare workers.

The Public Policy Forum conducted the survey on behalf of the Milwaukee Area Healthcare Alliance (MAHA), a new workforce development partnership between the YWCA of Greater Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Area Health Education. The Research Brief titled Assessing Healthcare Employers Workforce Development Needs in Southeastern Wisconsin, which can be accessed here, details the survey’s results and highlights challenges healthcare employers face in hiring and retaining a qualified workforce.