How the SkillUp Coalition Aims to Make Careers in Healthcare Accessible to All: An Interview with Executive Director Steven Lee

Steven Lee joined the SkillUp Coalition earlier this year as their Executive Director. SkillUp is a non-profit helping COVID-displaced workers get rehired for high-growth jobs. SkillUp brings together world-class training providers and partners to help workers upskill for in-demand careers. Steven brings over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, philanthropist and nonprofit leader to lead SkillUp through its next phase of supporting COVID-impacted frontline workers to attain the training and skills to reenter the workforce in stable, secure jobs. We had the opportunity to interview Steven to find out more about how SkillUp is positioning itself as another entry point into healthcare and illuminating how the healthcare industry is full of growth opportunities, including through trusted, short-term, affordable certifications.

ExploreHealth Careers (EHC): We know despite the pandemic, healthcare is continuing to grow. There are many entryways into healthcare currently (such as college, certification programs, or through entry-level positions). How does someone find a healthcare training program best suited for them on your platform? 

Steven Lee (SL): It’s easy. Go to skillup.org. You then have two options. First, simply click “Explore All Careers”. Look for jobs in the healthcare space. Once you do, click on those jobs, and you’ll go to a page that gives an overview of the job, any training that might be relevant, any related jobs, and a “Day in the Life” for that job. It will also list the open jobs in that area, as well as any training providers.

The second way you can do it is more tailored. On the home page, click the “Personalize” button. Answer a few questions — your zip code, current job and some traits on how you like to work, all of which take about 30 seconds — and it will list jobs and training providers in your area that are tailored to your profile.

EHC: The healthcare industry has been one of the top industries to continue to thrive despite COVID. There is demand for healthcare workers in a wide variety of areas of healthcare such as administration, clinical and specialists. Why does SkillUp think it’s important to offer the option for healthcare-related certifications in your current catalog of programs?

SL: The whole reason SkillUp exists is to help tens of million workers impacted by COVID-19 get rehired for in-demand jobs in high-growth industries. The healthcare industry — and numerous jobs in the healthcare industry — are amongst the highest growth industries in the country. Tens of thousands of open jobs exist across the country. SkillUp’s hope is to help frontline workers obtain those jobs.

EHC: You have deep experience in workforce development and working to solve workforce issues. How do you think SkillUp is helping to serve the underrepresented job market through certification programs? 

SL: I think we add value in three ways. First, we market. Through the use of sophisticated marketing capability, including geo-targeted social media campaigns and direct channel platforms, to reach marginalized populations. To date, SkillUp has had more than 200,000 unique users visit its site.

Second, we curate. Through an online recommendation engine to identify, explore and connect to high-growth careers that would be a good fit based on geography and experience (65 career pathways vetted to date, including, of course, in the healthcare industry).

Third, we connect. Working with our coalition partners, to identify and vet employer hiring networks in regions around the country.

And fourth, we support. Through the SkillUp Together Fund, we offer a scholarship of up to $1,000 for each dislocated worker who goes through the program.

EHC: How has SkillUp expanded its healthcare offerings both nationally and locally? 

SL: SkillUp is a national platform. But success often happens at the local level. As such, SkillUp’s goal is to offer its program in local settings across the country. Currently, we have two local sites up and running: SkillUp Los Angeles and SkillUp Louisiana. Soon, SkillUp Bay Area and Central Florida will launch in April 2021. And the goal is to launch SkillUp in 20-25 locations across the country.

And one of the main reasons we’re doing so is to expand our footprint in the healthcare industry. Most healthcare industries operate at the local level. I live in New York City. There are about a dozen major healthcare systems in the city. They are all unique to the city, with only a small footprint outside of New York City. Similar scenarios play out across the country. For SkillUp to expand and increase its footprint in the healthcare sector (and other sectors), we need to expand locally.

EHC: All of your healthcare training programs are offered online; was this intentional? Are they built to be flexible for any schedule? 

SL: Indeed. Especially during the pandemic, training programs have to be offered online. And the good news is that nearly all the healthcare certification programs can be completed online. But we — and the certification programs we work with — can be flexible. With our localization efforts, many of our certification programs have connections with local providers in case students have to take courses in person, for example, any lab work that may be part of the certification program. So at the end of the day, SkillUp and the certification programs we partner with are built to be flexible to meet the needs of the workers it serves.

EHC: What other support does SkillUp offer for anyone looking at changing into the healthcare industry?

SL: We offer a variety of support like career exploration tools, a career questionnaire, job search resources, and complimentary group coaching as well.

Here is a listing of the current healthcare certification programs SkillUp offers:

Clinical Data Manager
Clinical Research Coordinator
Informative Nurse Specialist
Medical Assistant
Medical Records and Health Information Technician
Personal Care Aide
Pharmacy Technician
Radiologic Technician
Respiratory Therapist
Surgical Assistant
Surgical Technologist

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