New partnership looks to add health care workers in southeastern Wisconsin

Five of southeastern Wisconsin’s top health care employers are now working together so they have enough workers in the future.

The partnership, known as the Center for Healthcare Careers of SE Wisconsin, aims to make sure there’s a stable supply of health care workers as more and more Baby Boomers need care.

“It just makes sense for all of us,” said the center’s founder, Keith Allen. “It would be better to work together and ensure there’s a pipeline of people getting into health care.”

Allen, the chief human resources officer at Froedtert Health, laid the groundwork for the partnership when he moved here four years ago. He had seen similar partnerships when working in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, and began talking to his counterparts about “collaborating instead of competing.”

The alliance so far consists of Froedtert, Aurora Health Care, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare and Columbia St. Mary’s, which collectively put in $400,000. The five, along with Employ Milwaukee, will look to grow the partnership and work with schools and colleges to promote careers in health care.

The center will try reaching students as early as elementary school, Allen said, teaching them what it means to work in health care.

And though it will focus a large part of its efforts on universities and technical colleges, it also will try reaching those who don’t make it there, Allen said. That means someone might get basic training on what to do at first if a patient isn’t responding — just in case that happens while they’re in the room.

“You’re not just here to clean the floor or desk,” he said. “You have to have greater skills to understand what’s happening.”

The problem goes far beyond the southeastern Wisconsin area, with the state’s Department of Workforce Development predicting the state will need almost 450,000 health care workers by 2022.

But for now, the group is making sure the approach works locally before taking a broader look, Allen said.

“Who knows where this thing will go,” he said. “But we’ll pilot it here for now.”

See the announcement

— By Polo Rocha,