Health Care Job Openings Exceed Worker Demand by 44% Amid ‘Skills Gap’

Skilled nursing executives and managers worried about a persistent workforce shortage now have another number to keep them up at night: 44%.

That’s the gulf between open positions and available health care practitioners, the most severe supply-demand mismatch identified in a new study prepared for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

The health care workforce shortage pales in comparison to the overall figure of 5% across the whole economy, and represents more than 1.1 million unfilled health care jobs.

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“This is by far the most dramatically expanding skills gap in our research,” analysis firm Burning Glass Technologies, which compiled the report, noted.

The next-closest industry was business and financial operations, with about 985,000 openings, followed by office and administrative support, with around 461,000 open positions.

The news is slightly better for so-called “health care support” positions, which include medical assistants and home health aides, for which demand exceeds supply by around 10%.

But the current shortage may only be the sign of even deeper pain to come over the next decade: Demand for nurse practitioners and physical therapists is expected to balloon by 36% and 25%, respectively, a rate that’s three to fie times faster than the overall job market. And unlike other jobs, these positions require advanced training that could be outside the reach of the average job-seeker — even if they have the time and the means to pursue higher education.

“Licensure requirements for workers, accreditation rules, and new program approval processes for training providers impact the rate at which universities are able to expand programs for advanced health care roles,” the researchers wrote.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Burning Glass certainly aren’t alone in their conclusions. A 2017 study from LeadingAge, a provider organization that represents non-profit operators, found that the United States would need 2.5 million more long-term care workers by 2030 to meet the demands of a greying population. Operators will eventually require a 73% increase in registered nurses, a 67% gain in food service workers, and a 69% jump in the number of building and grounds maintenance employees, LeadingAge found.

The team at Burning Glass calls for greater alignment between educational opportunities and workforce demands, including the development of post-secondary training opportunities outside of the traditional four-year bachelor’s degree. In addition, the researchers called on employers to “signal” needs to both workers and schools.

“As the workforce continues to evolve and specialize, the need for strong signaling about emerging jobs and skills becomes ever more critical,” they concluded.

Written by Alex Spanko

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