From education to employment

In 2024, Focus on Skills Based Training Supports Career Advancement and Business Growth 

Two years ago, UMKC TalentLink was formed to fill a distinct need for the local business and nonprofit community: offer localised high-quality training for their employees that simultaneously supports long-term regional growth and development. Nationwide, several industries face significant worker shortages and skills gaps. Employers in the Kansas City region face similar obstacles. To address workforce challenges, UMKC TalentLink works closely with employers to craft professional development approaches meeting their needs.

Kansas City businesses encounter ongoing talent acquisition challenges in healthcare, manufacturing, and the skilled trades. These shortages are not insurmountable, particularly in healthcare, and in fact, present an opportunity for job seekers and employers to pave new pathways to well-paying careers with growth potential.

According to the 2024 Economic Forecast Report from the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), the healthcare sector is anticipated to lead employment growth through 2025 in the Kansas City region. The report cites figures from Lightcast indicating that the number of job postings in Kansas City’s healthcare sector exceeds the national average. Specific in-demand jobs include medical assistants, dental assistants, pharmacy technicians, patient care technicians, and registered nurses. 

The report shares several key conclusions about addressing obstacles to growth. One, “workforce is the constraint on economic growth moving forward.” Two, “investment to raise the productivity of the current workforce will be paramount going forward.” 

The persistent need for qualified candidates opens the door for people to complete skills-focused training, secure a well-paying position, and advance on an employment path aligned with their interests and goals. In short, skills-based training and industry-approved certification can lead to an in-demand job. The widespread need for skilled workers represents a pivotal moment for young adults planning their path, for people re-entering the workforce, and for those seeking better opportunities for themselves and their families. 

Earning a higher education degree continues to be a viable and productive pathway to a career. However, recent studies indicate that more hiring managers and recruiters at employers are emphasizing skills-first hiring over experience or degrees. A survey of recruiters found they were 50 percent more likely to search by skills than they were to search by years of experience, according to LinkedIn’s 2023 The Future of Recruiting report. Further, 75 percent of recruiting professionals predicted skills-first hiring will be a priority for their company in the next 18 months.

UMKC TalentLink works directly with local employers to offer professional skills-based development programs where they have open job postings. In addition, we help upskill existing employees who seek advancement. The best place for employers to begin filling positions is to consider employees who know company culture, are eager to grow, and are ready to increase earnings. Employers use our training as an investment in existing employees as a talent retention tool. Our development programs also help employers prepare new hires to build soft skills quickly and efficiently as a team member or aspiring leader.

As a resource, UMKC TalentLink also delivers skills-based professional development for job seekers and adult learners. These people are already employed or are seeking to expand career possibilities in an industry such as healthcare, manufacturing, and other fields. An industry-recognized credential is a validation of their job-related skills.

UMKC TalentLink has pinpointed healthcare training as a top priority. We recognize the strong employer demand for qualified candidates. Economic reports illustrate a clear and compelling need to train more people with requisite skills who can fill these jobs and serve healthcare talent needs in local and regional communities.

According to MARC’s report, healthcare employment growth increased by 5,403 jobs in the past year from the fourth quarter of 2022 to 2023. Through 2025, healthcare is projected to be the region’s fastest-growing industry although at a slower pace than 2023.

Statewide, 113 out of 114 counties in Missouri face a healthcare worker shortage based on data from the Health Resources & Services Administration. Clearly, a pervasive need exists for trained healthcare workers across the region.

Available through UMKC TalentLink, our healthcare training partner MedCerts provides a 6-8-week training program in more than thirty healthcare roles. After completion, candidates take an industry-recognized certification exam. Once they pass, the candidate possesses the key skills and credentials to obtain an in-demand job at a local medical center or hospital.  

“Stack” Certifications

Once hired, healthcare workers can “stack” their certifications and move along a career pathway to jobs with increasing responsibility and better pay. For example, after earning the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant title, an employee can train and take their certification exam to be a Certified Phlebotomy Technician, a Certified EKG Technician, or, a Certified Patient Care Technician. Their opportunities for advancement dramatically expand.

As a local resource, UMKC TalentLink can collaborate directly with healthcare employers to address hiring needs by attracting newly trained talent. Further, we can develop an upskilling strategy. For example, employers work with UMKC TalentLink to develop a workforce training pathway. Existing employees can build laddered skills and stackable certifications in a MedCerts program, preparing them to fill specialized roles. 

Subsequently, employers can mitigate worker shortages, hire for aptitude and train to suit, or apply training to upskill existing employees for in-demand jobs. As a retention tool, employers help workers build a well-paying career path that strengthens their workforce and reduces churn.

Northern Indiana healthcare system Goshen Health creates a pipeline of medical assistants this way. To fill shortages of medical assistants, they started recruiting candidates internally and discovered that many staff in entry-level or unskilled positions were eager to train for a better-paying job and stay with the company.

As we move into 2024, this is one of the most exciting times of my 20+ year career in training and workforce development. In summary, here are two key trends in the labor marketplace. First, employers in many fields have already de-emphasized hiring requirements for college degrees. Increasingly, they are open to hiring individuals with industry-verified credentials or hiring for aptitude and training to suit. Second, high-quality online education programs to build job-relevant skills are more easily available and affordable than ever before. UMKC TalentLink is poised to serve employers and job seekers with skills-based training and development in growing fields.

As we navigate into a new year, more people can opt for completing a skills-focused training program, earn an industry-recognized certification, and land a well-paying job that leads to greater opportunity aligned with their goals and interests.

UMKC TalentLink Executive Director Jake Akehurst’s career spans 20 years in higher education. His experience includes work in advising, student life, and professional, online, and continuing education development and leadership. He received his bachelor degree in public relations from Northwest Missouri State University and a master’s degree in counselor education, student personnel services, from Emporia State University. 

Related Articles