Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Developing the Rural Workforce

Mary Wakefield PhD, R.N., Administrator of HRSA, said, “HIT has the potential to improve the quality, access, and efficiency of healthcare delivery especially in our nation’s rural areas.” To meet the need of the rural HIT workforce, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was initiated between HRSA and the Department of Labor to develop job training programs.

According to Wakefield, “This MOU will help ease the challenges of geographic isolation and staff shortages faced by rural communities and help move us toward our mutual goal of HIT workforce development.”

The Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Administration at DOL, Jane Oates said, “There is a real need to expand the rural health IT workforce and the MOU will help to ensure that job training programs are quickly and effectively put in place to address this need.”

The two agencies will work to connect community colleges and technical colleges and provide rural communities with the materials and resources needed to conduct HIT training to increase the workforce needed in rural hospitals and clinics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the needed HIT workforce will increase by 20 percent by 2016.

The White House Rural Council recommends making HHS loans available to more than 1,300 Critical Access Hospitals to use to recruit additional staff and to help purchase software and hardware to implement health IT.

Other recommendations made by the Council were to take decisive steps to dramatically increase the purchase of biobased products which will create jobs and innovation where biobased products are grown and manufactured.

The Council also recommends that the “Rural Jobs Accelerator”, a national competition should provide about $25 million for projects to promote innovation-fueled regional job creation. The competition will combine funding from the USDA’s Economic Development Administration, Delta Regional Authority, and the Appalachia Regional Commission.

In addition, on February 22nd, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced that $183 million in grants will be awarded to 43 private partnerships with 15 of those organizations involved in healthcare. The funding was made available through the second round of funding under the H-1B Technical Skills Training Grant Competition.

The grants will provide education, training, and job placement assistance related to high growth fields in which employers are currently using the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program to hire foreign workers. The grants will provide significant investments in such fields as information technology, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare.