The Waukesha County Business Alliance Schools2Skills program, which has introduced thousands of high school students to manufacturing careers over the past seven years, is expanding its focus to include another industry facing a worker shortage: health care.
The Alliance launched Schools2Skills in 2011 to take Waukesha County high school students on tours of local manufacturing facilities, showcase potential career opportunities and debunk misconceptions of the industry. Since then, more than 3,000 students, parents and educators have toured more than 100 manufacturers.
Now, the Alliance is partnering with Waukesha-based ProHealth Care to build off that model. The health care workforce pipeline is a key concern for industry leaders as they face the gap between available jobs and skilled workers — a gap that is only expected to widen as more baby boomers retire.
“Expanding Schools2SkillsTM to encompass additional industries beyond manufacturing has been an important part of our workforce development strategy,” said Suzanne Kelley, president and CEO of the Waukesha County Business Alliance. “With the unemployment rate in Waukesha County at record lows, all industries and positions are in need of employees.”
The Alliance is piloting two tours with ProHealth Care this year and wants to expand the program to include additional health care providers in the future.
The Schools2Skills Health Care program recently kicked off when 45 students from Oconomowoc, Arrowhead and Mukwonago high schools visited ProHealth Care’s UW Cancer Center to learn about careers in nursing, pharmacy, imaging and physical therapy.
“When people think of working in health care, they always think of doctors and nurses,” said Peter Bacon, chief transformation officer for ProHealth Care. “It’s important to us to educate students on all of the career options available in health care, because we’re seeing a need for people across all job functions.”
The Alliance also plans to expand its manufacturing program to include a record 26 tours this year and allow middle school students to participate. The program will focus on several manufacturing areas, including food and beverage manufacturing, business and marketing.