Investing in the professional development of immigrants who work as long-term caregivers, as well as helping them integrate into the American culture and its norms, is crucial to combatting the long-term care industry’s labor shortage.
This is according two former national governmental figures who spoke Wednesday in a debate titled, “The Impact of the Trump Administration’s Policies on Economic Growth,” at the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) 2017 Fall Conference in Chicago.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, a Republican, and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, who served in the Clinton and Obama administrations, tackled the topic of immigration and long-term care in a wide-ranging discussion.
The debate was moderated by Glenn Hutchins, chairman, North Island, and co-founder of the Menlo Park, Calif.-based private equity investment firm Silver Lake Partners.
The labor shortage dilemma is no secret in the industry, and has only been further compounded by national discussions surrounding immigration and President Donald Trump’s proposed end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program—a decision that could significantly reduce the numbers of workers available to the senior living sector, according to industry experts.
The long-term care industry, however, is one that is ripe with plenty of opportunities for the professional development of its current workforce—including its immigrant demographic, according to Gingrich.
“I think there are very few industries more susceptible to developing in-house continuing education than the entire long-term care system,” Gingrich said during the panel.
Gingrich pointed to the power of online educational materials and resources to help develop and mold the current workforce, and to introduce a change in the turnover that runs rampant across many U.S. industries.
“I cannot overemphasize the importance of looking at the emergence of all sorts of online and other kinds of learning systems that enable you to take somebody who comes in as an entry-level worker and actually improve their income and their capabilities,” he said.
This investment in education paves the way for what he said leads to a “continuous upgrading” of the workforce.
“When I talk to people in systems about what [it costs them] to replace a worker, it would actually be dramatically less expensive to find ways to have a learning track that enables people to rise in the system,” said Gingrich.
He also positioned automation as a way to not just increase productivity, but also fight the current labor shortage.
“[In] most of American life, we improve productivity by replacing human labor with a variety of systems that make us dramatically more productive. I think all of that is going to start coming into the field of helping as [older adults] age,” said Gingrich. “It’s going to have a huge impact over the next 10 to 20 years and will change … the kind of labor that you’re looking for.”
A central part
For Summers, the immigrant workforce has become a strong thread in the fabric of the U.S. economy.
On the immigration front, Summers explained that there are two principles that business owners need to acknowledge: the growing number of the immigrant population in the U.S., and the importance of their assimilation into U.S. culture.
“It is in our interest to have immigrants, especially skilled immigrants, who can contribute to the economy, pay taxes to support the aging population, who can bring entrepreneurial spirit, and who can carry on what has been an extraordinary tradition of the United States welcoming people from abroad,” said Summers during the panel. “I think those who want to see immigration only through the prism of walls and fences are really, very badly misguided.”
Further, integration into the American culture and its norms is crucial in order for the immigrant workforce to succeed, stressed Summers.
“I think if you want to come to the United States as an immigrant, it should be because you want to be an American, and you want to be part of a broad culture of America,” he said. “I think the way forward on this is to understand assimilation to be a central part of the immigration experience and to understand that immigration is a valuable thing for the society.”
Written by Carlo Calma