December 6, 2023

Solid foundation: How construction careers support health

Steady employment can improve a person's health and well-being. Our new partnership connects young people to in-demand jobs.

Two Kaiser Permanente construction staff members, Ben Fernandez and Arlene McNaul (in neon yellow vests), help students design and build a structure.

When thinking about what enables safe, affordable, high-quality health care, certain roles may come to mind: The person who checks you in for your doctor appointment. The doctors and nurses who care for you. The pharmacist who fills your prescriptions.

Often out of sight and mind are the construction workers who build our state-of-the-art care facilities. Their work is crucial. They create the buildings that are essential to our health.

The U.S. doesn’t have enough construction workers. And, for every 5 retirees leaving the construction industry, only 1 person is preparing for a career in the trade.

This shortage of skilled tradespeople can affect labor costs. This, in turn, can make health care less affordable.

Building economic opportunities for youth

In 2021, Kaiser Permanente partnered with CIEF, the Construction Industry Education Foundation. The organization introduces high school students and young adults to construction careers.

Our partnership with CIEF helps to address the shortage of construction workers. And it helps young people explore careers in construction.

We know that people who have steady incomes are less likely to live in poverty and more likely to be healthy.

“Steady income is vital for total health more than ever in today's economy. It ensures people can pay for food, housing, medical care — all the building blocks of good health,” said Norair Jemjemian, senior vice president of National Shared Services Operations for Kaiser Permanente. “The construction industry offers many job opportunities. We want more young people to see that. Finding a rewarding career can be life-changing, especially for young people in underserved communities.”

Helping high school students explore construction careers

In 2023, we helped a group of high school students break ground on their construction careers.

We sponsored Modesto High School in Modesto, California, in the CIEF Design-Build Competition.

CIEF runs these fun and educational competitions to increase awareness of construction industry jobs.

Participating students designed and built a 96-square-foot shed. Kaiser Permanente construction staff, including Ben Fernandez and Arlene McNaul, helped guide them.

CIEF competitions offer students hands-on experience. They also teach valuable project management skills.

students contructing a shed

Modesto High School students work with Kaiser Permanente construction staff to build a shed as part of a CIEF Design-Build Competition.

Kaiser Permanente is the first health care organization to be involved in a CIEF Design-Build Competition.

“When serving our communities, it’s important to forge unique partnerships,” said Scott Tibbetts , executive director of Service Delivery Operations for Kaiser Permanente. “They can pave the way to rewarding jobs that boost economic opportunity.”

Expanding our efforts

We sponsored other CIEF events in 2023, too.

For example, we sponsored the 2023 Women in Construction Conference. The conference addressed ways to encourage more women to join the industry.

We also sponsored CIEF Trades Day fairs. These fairs introduce youth to construction career opportunities.

Over 100 staff members from the Kaiser Permanente National Facilities Services team participated in these events as mentors. Mentors gave their time and expertise to increase young people’s knowledge of construction jobs. In 2022 and 2023, Kaiser Permanente helped more than 2,300 students participate in CIEF events .

Learn more about how Kaiser Permanente increases economic opportunities for people in our communities.