Two female surgeons wear their protective masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as they discuss a patient chart.
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The Healthcare Association of Hawaii, along with more than 70 businesses and the University of Hawaii community colleges, have committed to participating in a $35 million workforce development initiative. The initiative is aimed at building career pathways for up to 3,000 local residents in the healthcare, technology, clean energy, skilled trades and creative industries.

HAH represents nursing homes, assisted living communities and residential care homes, home health agencies, acute care hospitals in Hawaii, durable medical equipment suppliers and home infusion/pharmacies, among other types of providers.

The initiative, called Good Jobs Hawaii, is building on Oahu Back to Work and Hana Career Pathways, University of Hawaii community colleges’ workforce training programs that have provided free skills training for more than 4,000 residents since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Hawaii’s high cost of living makes it difficult for many local residents to make ends meet or raise a family. People need a job that they can thrive in — one that pays a living wage, provides good benefits, offers opportunities for advancement, and makes one feel valued,” HAH said

Ohana Pacific Health CEO Wesley Lo emphasized the importance of workforce development efforts in providing essential workers for the organization’s skilled nursing facilities. 

“With the recent earn and learn glidepath for [certified nursing assistants] to become [licensed practical nurses], our nurses can continue to work while in school, enabling them to provide for their families while advancing their career to earn a living wage,” he said in a statement. “We’re grateful for this collaboration and the Good Jobs initiative that supports employers by directly addressing staffing.”

Jaylin Cezar-Butac, one of the students in the CNA-to-LPN bridge program on Kauai, told the McKnight’s Business Daily that Good Jobs Hawaii is what brought her back to her home state from living in California. 

Cezar-Butac said she initially was inspired to become a nurse by her grandmother, who had that occupation. After gaining experience as a CNA, Cezar-Butac decided to pursue a career as an LPN. Waitlisted initially for nursing school in Hawaii, she said she decided to move to California to look at other opportunities.

“And while I was there, Bronson [Ho], Garden Isles’ amazing administrator, contacted me regarding the LPN bridge program. I applied, hoping for the best,” Cezar-Butac said. 

It turned out to be a good move. Through the Good Jobs Hawaii initiative, she has been working at Ohana Pacific Health at Garden Isle Rehab and Nursing for almost two years. 

“Thanks to grants like Good Jobs Hawaii, nursing students like me are able to afford to go to school. It provides us with the chance to advance in this field to earn a living wage while living at home, in Hawaii,” she said. “I hope other students will want to participate in the classes and career opportunities that Good Jobs Hawaii offers.”