The workforce shortage across California is projected to increase over time, and health centers face many challenges in recruiting and retaining health care professionals – especially people of color and members of the community. In California, less than 30% of counties meet the supply range requirement for primary care physicians, and South LA’s healthcare workforce shortage aggravates the health disparities already affecting residents.

With generous support from Kaiser Permanente, Community Health Councils (CHC) piloted a workforce pipeline program for youth of color in partnership with St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, The Internship Project at LA Promise Fund, and the Community Health Advocates School (CHAS) at Augustus Hawkins High School to further inform research and in turn, policies, that could help to mitigate the workforce shortage in South Los Angeles. By engaging youth at an earlier age and setting them up for success in the workforce and in college, pipeline programs can encourage youth to explore health careers and work in their communities. This pilot project allowed CHC to gain a deeper understanding of the career readiness skills youth must obtain in order to pursue careers in healthcare settings.

Sixteen students from Manual Arts and Augustus Hawkins High Schools completed a seven-week internship at St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, with concurrent weekly meetings focused on professional development and informing students’ career options. Interns were rotated amongst seven departments (Call Center, Human Resources, Medical, Billing, Finance, Benefits, Clinic Operations) to provide exposure to the overall clinic health system. As part of their weekly meetings, interns also wrote reflections and prepared for their culminating event: a mini-forum in which interns presented their experiences to our partners and their family members.

Interns learned a variety of clinic functions while rotating through the departments and shared an appreciation for the program structure. The rotations allowed interns to have a better understanding of how a clinic operates from the ground up and opened up the possibility of many health care careers in addition to the traditional roles of a doctor, nurse, or physician assistant. CHC will be writing a report on this project and recommendations to help develop and sustain future workforce pipeline programming for youth.