Charleston group gets $8.4M grant to diversify the area’s health care workforce | Business

A consortium that includes the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and one of the region’s largest medical providers has been awarded an $8.4 million grant to help put more underrepresented residents on higher-income career tracks in the health care business.

The “Good Jobs Challenge” funding from the $3 billion American Rescue Plan was announced Aug. 3 by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

In all, 32 regional organizations out of more than 500 applicants across the country were awarded money for their economic development proposals. None of the others is in South Carolina.

“A trained workforce is essential to ensuring that the United States can compete and succeed in the 21st century,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a written statement.

She said the goal of the program is to place 50,000 workers on better career paths by making “once-in-a-generation investments in industry-driven and locally led workforce systems that will create high-quality jobs and accelerate regional economic growth, especially for underserved communities.”

The Charleston Metro Chamber and its Lowcountry Careers Collaborative will lead the local diversity initiative using a combination of existing staff and new hires. They’ll be working with the E3 Foundation and Roper St. Francis Healthcare to address long-standing “racial inequities” and “structural barriers that have excluded many of our region’s underserved populations from accessing career pathways that would offer upward mobility,” according to their 15-page grant application

The five-point plan includes filling skills gaps, lowering employment barriers such as transportation and child care, and making training more accessible “for communities of color that will enhance pathways to high-earning potential jobs in health care, simultaneously boosting representative health care options.”

“We are committed to developing an equity-centric, employer-led approach that builds upon our existing regional training systems to offer pathways to higher level careers,” the organizers said.

Roper, as the primary industry representative and “backbone” partner, will be committed to working with other medical providers in the region to create training programs based on their needs and to provide jobs.

The chamber noted in its application that the average pay in the region’s health care field is about $74,000 and that 82 percent of the openings last year did not list a requirement for a bachelor’s degree, signaling “a significant opportunity for targeted engagement of individuals” who did not go to college.

The chamber also said the industry represents one of the area’s largest job creators, anchored by Roper, the Medical University of South Carolina and HCA-owned Trident Health.

“These employers have voiced a need to close the representation gaps for health care professionals” it said.

The chamber said it plans to expand the workplace diversity program later to other local industries, such as life sciences and advanced manufacturing.

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Contact John McDermott at 843-937-5572 or follow him on Twitter at @byjohnmcdermott

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