Guild Education Aids UCHealth in Making Career Advancement Accessible to Health Care Workers


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has placed significant strain on the medical field as health care workers are dealing with excessive numbers of patients and immense challenges. To better prepare the next generation of health care workers, UCHealth has launched the UCHealth Ascend Career Program offered in partnership with Guild Education. 

“UCHealth is taking an innovative approach to improving health care labor challenges by providing exciting education benefits for both our current staff, as well as those who want to enter the health care field,” explains Elizabeth B. Concordia, the president and CEO of UCHealth, which is a not-for-profit health care system headquartered in Aurora, Colorado. With 27,000 employees, it is one of Colorado’s most prominent organizations.

Big Benefit: Employees Can Work While Bettering Their Education

“The old adage was that you went to college so that you could get a good job. Well, we are turning that on its head and saying, ‘Come work for UCHealth so that you can get an education so that you can go to college,’” says David Mafe, UCHealth’s chief diversity officer.

This is a highly competitive labor market, and the UCHealth Ascend Career Program offers growth opportunities for UCHealth employees and entices new potential hires interested in following a career in health care. According to Concordia, “We know the cost of higher education and certification programs can be a barrier to career growth, and the Ascend Program will help extend those opportunities for all.”

Why Partnering With Guild Education Makes Perfect Sense

Guild Education is the United States’ leading education and upskilling platform, so it makes sense for UCHealth to partner with it. Rachel Romer Carlson, chief executive officer and co-founder of Guild Education, explains, “The past two years have underscored how vital health care workers are to our society. As a Colorado-headquartered company, all of us at Guild Education are honored to partner with UCHealth to launch this program and provide health care workers the pathways, skills, and resources they need to care for our shared community.” 

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2020 and 2030, health care employment is expected to grow 16%. That adds up to approximately 2.6 million new jobs in the next decade. 

Due to the ongoing demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses worldwide are feeling overworked and overwhelmed. “No matter what survey, whether it is national or local, upwards of 50% of the nurses and more regularly report the single biggest reason for them leaving their job is the workload,” shares Colleen Casper, the executive director of the Colorado Nurses Association. According to Casper, the pandemic has intensified nurses’ persistent challenges, including long, physically taxing shifts and demanding patient-to-nurse ratios.

Relief could be on the horizon. Thanks to the Ascend Career ProgramUCHealth is funding a selection of clinical certifications and foundational learning programs, including college preparation and English language, in addition to select degree programs in such fields as behavioral health and social work. All the programs are aimed at critical staffing areas in Colorado and support employees’ growth in roles that will help alleviate the shortage of clinical health care workers in the Centennial State. The total investment from UCHealth in the program, in partnership with Guild Education, is estimated to be up to $50 million over the next several years.

The benefits are expected to outweigh the cost. Mafe explains, “The Ascend Program supports UCHealth’s commitment to improving lives in communities we serve by equipping our employees with the skills needed to provide the very best patient care.”

Guild Education’s Program Replaces a Tuition Reimbursement-Style Version

Before partnering with Guild Education, UCHealth offered tuition reimbursement based on tenure with the corporation. Under the previous plan, employees were reimbursed only after attending classes and earning a passing grade. 

Now, according to Kelli Christenson of UCHealth’s media and public relations, “The first day that they are employed at UCHealth, they can sign up for this program.” The Ascend Career Program greatly benefits the health care workers since “they sign up, they focus on their schooling, and the tuition is taken care of. So I think that is what makes this program so interesting,” notes Christenson. 

In partnering with Guild Education to offer this program, the company will provide educational coaches to help guide employees to select the best courses and programs to suit their career goals. “The program supports social mobility, enabling diverse candidates to access sustainable jobs and support their families,” says Mafe. 

Equity is also extremely important to Carlson and is part of the foundation of Guild Education. “I had a less than ideal early experience as an employee where no one explained to me really what equity was or how to exercise it,” Carlson, a Denver native, told Forbes. “I just felt like I could do something different in my own company and teach everyone the value of equity.” 

The Ascend Career Program also includes partially funded programs. What does that mean? Under a more comprehensive selection of in-network programs, UCHealth will pay up to $5,250 per year directly to an employee’s school as well as provide tuition reimbursement up to $5,250 a year for any accredited programs outside the Ascend Program’s catalog. 

“We believe in this program,” says Mafe. “Over the course of the first four years, we believe that we are going to be investing somewhere between $35 million and $50 million, depending on how many people participate in the program.” 

Guild Education Has Partnered With Other Large Employers

In addition to the new Ascend Program, Guild Education has worked with other large corporations, including Discover, Chipotle, Kohl’s, The Walt Disney Company, and Target, to offer affordable education and help upskill workers. “The Guild Platform transforms education and learning programs into [employers] strategic advantage by empowering all employees, driving meaningful business outcomes, and creating efficiencies for administrative teams,” states the Guild Education website.