Case Study - L.A. County Healthcare Partnership

When a Financial Crisis Lays Off 2,500 Workers, the Partnership Model Responds

In 1995, a financial crisis at the L.A. County Department of Health Services laid off 2,500 employees, exposing vulnerable workers – many women and people of color with limited education, skills, and financial resources – to fluctuations in funding and ongoing restructuring of the healthcare workforce. In response, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 721 and the County developed a labor-management educational partnership, the Health Care Workforce Development Program (HCWDP), and established the Worker Education & Resource Center (WERC) to implement it.

HCWDP offers basic skills preparation, pre-requisites, career path training, test prep, help with licensure as well as placement assistance for existing L.A. County Department of Health Services workers. The program also provides coaching and counseling services, invaluable to many participants with limited educational attainment or those, such as women with families, facing additional pressures affecting their ability to complete training. WERC functions as both a direct service provider and as a workforce intermediary, providing the planning, administration, and coordination of outside vendor services, such as courses provided by colleges in the Los Angeles Community College District. Between 2002 and 2008:

  • Approximately 9,300 LACHDS employees took at least one course.
  • Over 1,000 new professionals obtained degrees or credentials, including 249 new RNs.
  • Career path graduates experienced substantial wage gains averaging approximately 20%, or between $20,000 and $40,000 annually.
  • 88% of participants were minorities (in nursing: 31% African American, 24% Asian, and 33% Hispanic), increasing diversity of the health professions.
  • 83% of participants were women, many of them single heads of households.
“I was in a really low-paying position that I was really struggling in, and now I’m in a position where I’m not rich, but I’m comfortable. It allowed me to be independent, to be supportive of myself and my family.”
--Monica Gipson, Coder

As the industry partner, the L.A. County Department of Health Services has benefited: improved quality and cultural appropriateness of care and help to address a critical shortage of nurses reduces personnel costs. HCWDP has also generated broader education system changes that improve access to career pathways for workers. Community colleges are standardizing pre-requisites with articulation agreements that enable participants to carry credits from school to school. HCWDP benefited from a regional Career Advancement Academy grant from the state Chancellor’s office. Through L.A. Community College District bond funding, a new satellite campus will concentrate preparatory courses on the site of the County’s large hospital in East L.A. to ensure more students access nursing and allied health programs.

Compiled by CSW for the California Edge Campaign, 2009