Supply-Demand Gap Worsening for Home Health Workforce

The caregiver shortage across the in-home care industry is no secret, but a new report sheds light on the depth of the skills gap of available workers.

The U.S. labor market is as tight as ever since the Great Recession, according to a report prepared for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation by Burning Glass Technologies. With a national unemployment rate of just 4.1% in December 2017, workers have choices in their employment, particularly for jobs in high demand.

Across the all occupations studied, there were 5% more job openings than workers in 2016, but health care positions stood out with the highest demand. Personal care aide supply appeared to be meeting the workforce demand, however, with a 1:1 ratio of demand to supply, according to the report. However, there was a surplus of job openings in the health care support category, which includes home health aides.

Employers in home-based care frequently cite finding qualified workers as one of their top challenges. This gets specifically at the concept of a skills gap—not only are there not enough workers to fill available positions health care generally, there are not enough workers with the specific skills needed for particular positions. This can manifest itself as workers not having enough training or education for high-end positions, or not being willing to take on low- and middle-skill occupations.

“The most dramatically expanding skills gap in our research is in health care occupations,” the report reads.

Since 2012, the labor market has been tightening, particularly in health care, which had about 1.2 million openings in 2016—more than business and financial operations, office and administrative support, sales, and computers and mathematics categories measured in the report, which was based on figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

Among higher-skilled professionals, including health care practitioners—doctors, nurses and technicians—the skills gap exceeded 40%, the report found. Among health care support, which included home health aides, the skills gap hovered near 10%.

Skills gaps, in the case of a high demand for jobs and not enough supply of available workers, exist across many industries, and there are some solutions to the rising problem, according to the report. Tailored approaches to specific industries are more likely to be successful solutions, such as improving long lead times in training new workers in health care. A misalignment of hiring and training systems is just one of the underlying causes of the skills gap across the different occupations.

In home care, a shortage of workers has been reported, but the reason for the shortage can vary across positions. For example, the severe shortage of health care practitioners is more likely caused by training programs that don’t produce enough qualified workers. Demand for personal care aides, which has a projected growth rate of 24% over the next 10 years, is compounded by the fact that these jobs “aren’t that attractive,” according to the report. These jobs have relatively low pay and challenge working conditions.

The report concludes that improving access to, and outcomes from, education and training will help the shortage of workers in some areas.

Particularly for jobs that require high education, better alignment between the education and workforce systems will better support the demands of the labor market. Employers can play a role in this as customers of the education and training systems, such as training the next generation of leadership as baby boomers in their current roles retire over the next several years.

Written by Amy Baxter

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Amy Baxter
Assistant Editor at Home Health Care News
When not writing about all things home health, Amy fulfills her lifelong dream of becoming a pirate by sailing in regattas and enjoying rum. Fun fact: she sailed 333 miles across Lake Michigan in the Chicago Yacht Club "Race to Mackinac."