A Shared Vision: Workforce Pipelines Matter


A healthcare, insurance, and professional service corporation may not have a lot in common, but the leaders do share one strategy—investing in workforce pipelines. 

“We don’t find what we need if we don’t invest into the early pipeline,” Accenture global health and public services industry practice chair Ryan Oakes said during the Oct. 8 Connecticut Workforce Summit.

Social Venture Partners Connecticut’s Michael van Leesten moderated a summit panel discussion featuring Hartford HealthCare human resources vice president Melanie Tucker, Oakes, and Travelers Foundation vice president Tara Spain [pictured above, left to right].

With more than 700,000 global employees, Oakes said Accenture develops programs and connections in various communities in order to have a diverse group of talent. 

At Hartford HealthCare, Tucker understands the rapid growth of the industry can continue to present challenges. 

”We have to invest and build to get ahead and keep up with it.”

Hartford HealthCare’s Melanie Tucker

“We’re never going to be able to recruit our way out of it,” Tucker said. ”We have to invest and build to get ahead and keep up with it.”

While at one time the driving factors for investing in early talent pipelines may have been to be a good community partner, the actions have become an imperative for businesses themselves.  

And right now there is tremendous leadership buy-in, as the Travelers Foundation’s Spain said.

“We’re all making this part of the fabric of who we are as a company,” Spain said. 

Structured Programming 

Travelers, Accenture, and Hartford HealthCare all have programming in place to develop strong workforce pipelines. 

For Accenture, Oakes said roughly 20% of the 100,000 employees they hire this year will be part of their structured, living-wage apprenticeship program.

Students enrolled in the Travelers EDGE program also have a clear path. The program aims to get students into college, support them through college, and into a career at Travelers or somewhere else within the insurance industry. 

The program has served 500 students since its launch in 2007. 

“We know that there is so much need out there.”

Travelers’ Tara Spain

Spain said the financial backing through scholarships, academic support on campus, internships, mentoring, and peer connections have proven to be successful thus far. 

“We know that there is so much need out there,” Spain said. 

She encourages other employers to implement similar programs. 

Travelers and Hartford HealthCare also invest in ReadyCT’s career pathway programs at high schools in Connecticut. 

They not only back the programs financially, but physically as well. Representatives sit on the industry advisory boards, participate in mock interviews, speak to classrooms, and host students at their offices. 

Soft Skill Development 

When it comes to preparing students for the workforce, leaders have found soft skills are equally, and in some cases more important than technical skills early on in the development process. 

The Accenture apprenticeship program teaches students about how to run meetings, write memos, and draft emails.

“It’s the things that matter to operating inside a company culture that so frequently define the success or failure of folks once they get into harder work,” Oakes said. 

Spain has found it helpful to teach young people about the importance of their “personal branding”—intentionally managing how you show up in spaces with persistence and appropriate attire. 

While ReadyCT’s pathways give students certificates in various industries, Tucker said the training beyond technical skills shines.

“The things that matter to operating inside a company culture frequently define the success or failure of folks.”

Accenture’s Ryan Oakes

Tucker was recently impressed with the students involved in ReadyCT’s GRIT immersive summer training program as its impact went far beyond technical skills. 

Hartford HealthCare gave students a real problem to solve over the course of the summer. 

Through their individual work, and time spent at the hospital, the students presented a solution to Tucker and others on her team. 

“Throughout that they were learning critical thinking skills, how to take feedback, how to negotiate, how to work collaboratively as a team, then how to present as leaders” Tucker said.

“Those are the kinds of skills that when someone comes out of school, are really going to set them up for success no matter what the position is.” 

Attracting Opportunities

While academic aptitude will continue to play a role in determining a person’s success post high school, the focus has shifted for some. 

Businesses have begun to realize the importance of pathway program promotion and development. 

“Creating a pipeline, and creating a set of talent that is easily accessible to business is the pathway to getting our attention,” Oakes said. 

Even for larger corporations like Accenture, degrees don’t carry the same weight. In fact, the company did away with eliminating degrees from 80% of the job prerequisites just a few years ago. 

“That culture change of getting people to understand that the traditional pathways of ‘here are the 20 schools we’re going to go to and get students with these degrees and specific experiences’ is grossly inadequate in what we need to do to serve our business needs,” Oakes said. 

Accenture eliminated degrees from 80% of job prerequisites.

Tucker and Spain feel it is critical to attract students and their families to the pathway programs even though they might not feel or look as traditional. 

“Hartford HealthCare is really looking to help educate the community, caregivers about what opportunities the pathways can provide for the students,” Tucker said. 

She said that is especially important for students who have significant responsibilities outside of the classroom. 

This belief in the pathways is not new, but only becoming more critical for various industries to see a successful future. 


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