Personal Experiences and a Strong Business Case Have Resulted in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program to Grow Much Needed Workforce

Facing many of the same workforce challenges being seen in the transportation industry, one large healthcare organization has built a successful model for growing its talent pool. Based on the fundamentals of diversity, equity, and inclusion, the program at UW Health, in southcentral Wisconsin, is growing the skilled workforce they need through an innovative use of community partnerships and home-grown internship and training programs.

Bridgett Willey, Director of Allied Health Education and Career Pathways at UW Health recently joined Tremaine Maebry and 31 attendees for the second installment of the MTWC Diversity and Inclusion Virtual Roundtable Summer Series. In the roundtable, they discussed successful strategies for building a successful Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program and how Willey’s experiences in healthcare can be applied within the Transportation industry. A recording of this roundtable discussion is available on the MTWC website.

Across several sectors, filling positions in the Midwest is difficult and getting harder. That is exactly what UW Health is experiencing as a healthcare system comprised of five hospitals and just under 200 clinics with 16,000 employees. Filling positions in the state is difficult due to high rates of retirement among baby boomers combined with a very low unemployment rate of just 2.6%. UW Health discovered, however, that there is a rich untapped resource among the area’s communities of color, where unemployment rates are currently higher.

About four years ago, Willey started a program to give underrepresented high school and college students an opportunity to explore about 60 in-demand, healthcare careers. The program is called HOPE, which stands for Health Occupations and Professions Exploration. From the first class, interest and attendance in HOPE offerings far exceeded expectations. To date, about 1500 high school and college students from all over the state have participated.

Based on the success of that program, Willey made a proposal to senior leadership to form a new department. Leadership agreed and Allied Health Education and Career Pathways was formed a year and a half ago. With the formation of a department, the programs received a sustainable source of funding that replaced the less reliable grant funds used at their launch.

Since then, the department’s programs have expanded into working not only with youth but also with adults who are underemployed or unemployed. The programs provide short-term training and educational sessions, usually in partnership with a community organization such as The Urban League of Greater Madison, Centro Hispano of Dane County, or Operation Fresh Start, to provide people with the training they need to be successful as they come into various entry-level positions at the hospitals and clinics.

Making the business case for cultural competence at UW Health was key to gaining buy-in for the new department. It’s important for the organization to have a staff with a similar demographic makeup to the patient populations that it serves.

“Over the last couple of years, we have increased our diversity especially at our entry-level careers at the hospital. Now we’re focusing our efforts on creating more opportunities and paths for folks to get into the professional and technical levels of the organization,” said Willey.

Other key factors that have helped gain buy-in include the involvement of subject matter experts from throughout the organization in all aspects of the department’s work. From collecting information about careers and developing training materials to working directly with the students at HOPE events, people are asked to share their knowledge and expertise for the benefit of the program. It’s also important to bring in someone well versed in education who can help not only develop the materials but also help make the careers look interesting to young people. They have a website at www.hopemadisonwi.org that is used extensively by the students during the HOPE events.

With just four career pathways coordinators plus herself, Willey points out that it’s extremely important to be able to work with limited resources and be willing to constantly innovate and change what the team is doing.

“As a small team, we’re always working at capacity. Before we can try something new we have to take something out. So, we’re always in a state of change and growth,” she said.

Willey also admits that her personal experiences probably helped make her especially adept at implementing workforce development programs. When she was about 11, Willey saw her father’s career change take her family from living at the poverty line to the middle class. This experience stuck with her and taught her important lessons about how young people choose their future careers. She later built on this experience when choosing her own professional trajectory, and eventually used all of these experiences to build the HOPE program.

Her early exposure to healthcare came from her dad when he came out of the Navy. After serving four years as an EMT, when he rejoined civilian life, her father’s skills were not transferrable into a certification or a specific job role. So, he was working at a low wage at the VA hospital in Kansas City, as a Patient Care Assistant. While there, a cardiologist offered him the opportunity to learn on the job to operate a new technology, diagnostic medical ultrasound, which was used to look at patients’ hearts and blood vessels. With this new training and new career path, Willey’s father vastly improved his family’s financial situation.

“That, to me was incredible,” said Willey. “Later, when I went to college I started out as a Journalism major. I quickly realized that I was going to have student loans and that there was only a thirty percent chance I would even get accepted into the Journalism school. I decided that I better find a better career.” Willey went on to pursue a career in healthcare, starting with on-the-job EKG Technician training.

“Careers tend to run in families,” Willey points out. “When I tell the story of my dad to the kids in HOPE, it tends to make a big impact. Many of them have experienced poverty or experienced a parent working two or three jobs just trying to make ends meet,” said Willey. “Whereas, a lot of careers in healthcare, with very little formal education, can be extremely lucrative and support families.”

A recent article in the Wisconsin State Journal highlighted the student experience through the summer HOPE internship program.

For more information about the MTWC D&I Virtual Roundtable or if you have any questions please contact Maria Hart at maria.hart@wisc.edu.

Presenters at First D&I Virtual Roundtable Took it from the Top in Tackling Common Challenges

An opportunity to discuss strategies for tackling common challenges brought forty diversity and inclusion professionals together for the Midwest Transportation Workforce Center’s first D&I Virtual Roundtable discussion on June 8. When they registered, attendees were asked to share their challenges and questions. Among their responses, some strong themes emerged. Common challenges shared by the attendees included:

  • Gaining buy-in and support from senior leadership
  • Demonstrating and communicating the value of diversity and inclusion
  • Evolving corporate culture to not only recruit people with a broad range of backgrounds and ethnicities but to also welcome these people and make them want to stay

The roundtable discussion was the first in a three-part series hosted by MTWC this summer. The MTWC is hosting this series to address a need among D&I professionals for a place to share ideas, learn from peers, and network with others with similar goals.

The roundtables are being facilitated by Tremaine Maebry, an attorney and advocate who currently manages the Office of Diversity and Civil Rights at a major transit organization. Maebry kicked off the discussion by explaining why he chose the topic of this first roundtable.

“In my conversations with colleagues and other advocates, our discussions often center around how do we get a seat at the table or how do we get buy in or support from our executive leadership team,” said Maebry. “I say that most of our senior leaders understand the importance that diversity plays in our organizations especially when it comes to the bottom line, retention, recruitment, and profit. What is unclear is the role that the D&I professional plays and how we fit in. It can be difficult for leadership to see us as strategic partners. It’s important for us to understand our roles and what we’ve done to create value. We need to do that before we ask for a seat at the table. We need to be able to articulate that especially to those in senior positions.”

Presenters, George Watts and Laurie Blazek of Top Line Talent, discussed strategies that D&I professionals can use to improve communication, especially with senior executives. Using some of the strategies outlined in their recent book, “Becoming a Strategic Leader,” Watts walked through ways that people can align their communication to the personality traits of the people with whom they are trying to communicate.

Watts asked the people in the roundtable to consider how they ranked various aspects of their personality. Then, they were asked to consider the top traits of their boss or other member of senior leadership at their organization. Given certain traits, Watts outlined the best communication styles that work to communicate with people with those traits.

To demonstrate, Watts asked for a volunteer. The volunteer shared that her top personality traits, as defined by Watts’ model, are a tendency toward extroversion and open-mindedness. On the other hand, a person she needs to communicate with at work has an almost opposite set of personality traits with a tendency toward conscientiousness and being emotionally stable.

“He is looking for you to present a metrically based argument and a process. You have a tendency to sell how diversity can make the workforce more creative and innovative and it can expand the talent pool. What he really wants to hear is how diversity can improve financial performance and result in decision making,” suggested Watts.

Overall, Watts talked about how D&I professionals can rebrand themselves to better communicate with senior leaders at their organizations and adjust their personal communication style so that their messages are more well received by their audience.

“To earn a seat at the table it’s important for you to understand your personality structure and then understand how your audience wants to receive that information and hear that information,” explained Watts.

In addition to communication style and personality traits, Watts proposed that D&I professionals think about their profession as a whole.

“What business are you really in?” asked Watts. “You have to define yourself as a talent management professional and diversity is one of the tools in your toolkit. You have to put diversity in the larger context and see it as part of the bigger picture.”

A recording of the roundtable discussion is available here.

Attendees at the roundtable included people from apprenticeship programs, community and technical colleges, consulting groups, industry, non-profits, primary and secondary schools, state departments of labor and transportation, transit agencies, transportation agencies, and universities.

While this discussion focused on communicating with top leadership, the next roundtable, on July 18, will focus on “Building Diversity and Inclusion from the Ground Up.” Bridgett Willey, Director of Allied Health Education and Career Pathways at UW Health, will speak about her experiences developing programs in education, training, outreach, and workforce development that cultivate diversity and inclusion.

Before the next roundtable, D&I professionals are encouraged to continue the conversation via the MTWC Community of Practice by joining the group on Google+ where there is a special section devoted to Workforce Inclusion and Diversity.

For more information or if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact Maria Hart at maria.hart@wisc.edu.

MTWC Launches Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Initiative

This summer, the Midwest Transportation Workforce Center (MTWC) is hosting a series of conversations focused on diversity and inclusion practices.  Most businesses understand that diversity creates value in the workplace, builds stronger, more innovative teams, and will be critical to addressing future workforce shortfalls. However, implementation often falls to the wayside as the day-to-day objectives of running a business take priority.

You are invited to join others in the diversity and inclusion space to create a network that helps scale solutions across the United States. Hosted by the MTWC, this initiative will be facilitated by Tremaine Maebry, EEO/Diversity Initiatives Manager at Metra.

Through this initiative, MTWC hopes to provide an information exchange platform that makes space for diversity practitioners, advocates and champions from various industry backgrounds to have a dialogue on diversity and inclusion initiatives. Through a series of interactive, multi-layered discussions, the community will explore best practices, questions, resources, information, concerns, suggestions, recommendations and challenges of making a diverse and inclusive workplace with the intent of transforming that information into sustainable, workable, initiatives.

The initiative’s goals are:

  • To engage diversity and inclusion advocates from different industries, professional associations, generations, and geographic regions in meaningful dialogue and intentional actions.
  • To weave the principles of diversity and inclusion into sustainable, workable initiatives.
  • To identify impediments to creating a diverse and inclusive environment, and then propose solutions and ideas on how to address those challenges.

We welcome diversity and inclusion practitioners from all industry sectors.  Registration is now open for the first virtual roundtable discussion to be held June 8, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. Central Time.

For more information or if you have any questions, contact Maria Hart at maria.hart@wisc.edu.

Transcripts of Apprenticeship Webinar and Call Available

The transcript of the MTWC webinar, “Why all the momentum for Registered Apprenticeships? What are they?” held December 8th is now available for download on the MTWC website. Here, you can also view the recording of the webinar as well as download the presentation slides and other helpful resource materials.

After the webinar, a follow-up call was scheduled to allow more time to ask questions of the panel of experts about registered apprenticeship programs. The transcript of this call is also available on the website.

WEBINAR – Driving Without Gas: How Electric Vehicles are Transforming the Education and Workforce Landscape

Website

Register

Thursday, November 10th, 2016
2:00 – 3:30 p.m. Central Time

Join the Northeast Transportation Workforce Center (NETWC) and Southwest Transportation Workforce Center (SWTWC) in a webinar about electric and hybrid-electric vehicles used in high school curricula. As the nation moves to having more vehicles powered by electricity and alternative fuels and away from traditionally petroleum-powered vehicles, exposing students to electric vehicles will help inspire opportunities and desired careers. This is a critical time for students to explore the career pathways associated with these vehicles.

Presentations will be given by:

  • Abby Bleything, Vermont Clean Cities Coalition Coordinator, and moderator of this webinar.
  • Charlie Garlow & Nabih Bedewi, who organize and run the Washington, DC Electric Vehicle Grand Prix for high school students in DC, Maryland, and Virginia for its fourth year running in 2016.
  • Simon Hauger, Co-Founder and current principal at The Workshop School in Philadelphia, PA, and leader of the EVX Team, which designs and builds hybrid-electric vehicles. He has been teaching about alternative fuel vehicles for 20 years.
  • Eric Padget, Assistant Principal of Career and Technical Education, Garden Grove Unified School District in Garden Grove, CA. Their schools are incorporating SWITCH Vehicle Kits for students to build and deconstruct special electric vehicles, and several teachers in the district attended a SWITCH training in summer 2016.

WEBINAR – Providing Accessible Transportation Services: Professional Development Resources for Transportation Providers

Flyer

Registration

October 27, 2016
1:00-2:30 p.m. Central

Presented by
Donna Smith and Carol Wright
of Easter Seals Project Action Consulting

Sponsored by the MSU Western Transportation Institute, West Region Transportation Workforce Center and the Eurasia Foundation University Partnership Program.

Workforce development training is essential to building an accessible transportation environment. Join us for this free webinar to learn more about the availability of training for transportation service providers. Attendees will learn about multiple training topics, providers, and sources, including: university programs, national training and technical assistance programs, consultants, state, regional and national conferences, and transportation agencies. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and offer additional information about their own training programs and needs.

WEBINAR – Diversity in the Transportation Industry: Attracting and Engaging Diverse Groups

Flyer

October 13, 2016
2:00 p.m. Eastern

Co-hosted by the TRB Education and Training Committee (ABG20) and APTA.

Diversity of people, minds and thought unlocks great potential for the transportation industry. Breaking down barriers, diversity creates an environment of inclusion and ceaseless knowledge sharing among communities, organizations, and individuals. The objective of this session is to explore and celebrate diversity through its many forms, voices, and audiences.

WEBINAR – Transfer the Knowledge Before it Walks Out the Door

Wednesday, September 14, 2016
1:00 p.m. Eastern Time

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Download the Flyer

PRESENTATION DESCRIPTION: As workforce members continue to depart organizations, with them goes a significant amount of critical knowledge that is essential to conducting the public’s business within their former organization. As organizations prepare for the potential departure of valuable staff, a major concern is how to preserve the knowledge that these seasoned employees have amassed. Various types of knowledge retention strategies can be utilized so that critical knowledge does not “walk out the door.” This presentation will illustrate an overall strategy and associated tactics to enable an agency to systematically capture and transfer knowledge.

TARGET AUDIENCE: Organizational management, HR staff, and supervisors.

WEBINAR – Diversity in the Transportation Industry: Attracting and Engaging Diverse Groups

October 13, 2016
2:00 p.m. Eastern

Co-hosted by the TRB Education and Training Committee (ABG20) and APTA.

Diversity of people, minds and thought unlocks great potential for the transportation industry. Breaking down barriers, diversity creates an environment of inclusion and ceaseless knowledge sharing among communities, organizations, and individuals. The objective of this session is to explore and celebrate diversity through its many forms, voices, and audiences.

WEBINAR – The Evolving Surface Transportation Operations and Maintenance Workforce; Challenges and Opportunities

August 18, 2016
1:00 p.m. Eastern Time

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Focusing on the rapid changes in the surface transportation maintenance and operations workforce. Factors such as increasing retirement rates, downsizing staff, recruiting and retaining qualified employees, shifting responsibilities, and expanding the use of advanced technologies are influencing these changes. This webinar will examine two social factors and two groups of potential workers that have not been fully engaged in maintenance and operations career path opportunities.