In the Kansas City region, people of color are underrepresented in health sciences occupations. Additionally, there are too few candidates to meet the workforce demands of this growing field. According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, health care and social assistance is the highest employment and wage growth industry in Kansas City—but only 25 percent of Kansas City’s health care and social assistance employees are people of color.
PREP-KC, through its HealthStart Career Academy, hopes to close this gap by giving urban high school students a head start on a career in the health sciences.
Since 2014, support from the Health Forward Foundation has allowed PREP-KC to develop and implement the HealthStart Career Academy. HealthStart gives students access to career exploration, postsecondary readiness, and opportunities to develop career readiness and employment skills. Career events and worksite tours in which students meet health care professionals showcase the range of careers in high-growth health sciences fields. Students can participate in college-level classes, campus visits, advising, and mentoring. The program also enables students to graduate with stackable workforce credentials and internship experience.
PREP-KC sees first-hand the impact that HealthStart is having on students’ futures. Kyra, a Center High School student, has a clear vision of becoming a physical therapist. After exploring several different careers during PREP-KC’s summer program, Kyra discovered she excels at a hands-on approach to health. Kyra has taken college courses during high school and will graduate with at least 15 college credits—equivalent to a full semester of college. Because of this head start on her college studies, Kyra has the opportunity to graduate early with her college degree.
“Being part of the HealthStart Academy has given me more confidence for interviews and in terms of participating in group discussions,” said Kyra.
Kyra’s story shares one of many examples of how urban students now see real career possibilities. Kyra demonstrates how HealthStart’s career exploration and preparation opportunities are helping Kansas City urban students get a strong jump start on their futures.
PREP-KC’s HealthStart Career Academy has created a highly effective model for collaboration between businesses, postsecondary institutions, and high schools. Last year, HealthStart engaged 115 students from six urban schools, two postsecondary institutions, and six local businesses through intensive partnerships.
HealthStart’s results indicate that these partnerships are preparing urban high school students for success in the health sciences:
- 75 percent of HealthStart graduates enrolled in postsecondary education after high school, higher than the national average for both low- (46 percent) and middle-income (64 percent) students.
- 72 percent of this year’s graduates successfully completed at least one college course.
- 40 HealthStart students earned a workforce credential during the 2015-16 school year (CNA or BLS).
These results demonstrate how HealthStart is changing lives and giving students expanded career paths. PREP-KC is increasing its readiness and partnership network to scale the HealthStart strategies to serve many more students across the bi-state Kansas City region. In time, PREP-KC’s HealthStart program will help create a more diverse Health Sciences workforce across Kansas City.