Health workforce challenges remain a critical bottleneck in achieving universal health coverage (UHC) goals in most countries. As it stands, health professional training is primarily clinical, curricular and delinked from the needs of the health system. To achieve global health goals and maximize opportunities for employment and economic growth, all in the context of limited fiscal realities, a paradigm shift is needed with respect to the health workforce and corresponding education systems. There is a need to shift towards fair, gender friendly employment at a rate that matches the overall growth of the health economy, which acknowledges the role of the private sector in education and training. This paper emphasizes the importance and implications of such a paradigm shift. It argues the need for a 21st century framework for health professional education. This framework should represent a more satisfactory interface between supply and demand for health professional labor, in line with the need for UHC, job creation and economic growth.