Growing Skills Gap in Healthcare Services

Between 2008 and 2013, healthcare overtook manufacturing as the largest private employer in most U.S. counties (Pew Charitable Trusts). And while much attention has been paid to the manufacturing skills gap, the healthcare sector faces its own hiring challenges as well.

Manufacturing remains the largest job provider in Ashtabula County, but clearly healthcare services job growth in terms of the numbers and growth rate outpaces manufacturing.

The American Staffing Association reports thatseven of the top 10 hardest-to-fill jobs of 2015 are in the healthcare field (EMSI). These include:

  • Occupational therapists,
  • Occupational therapy assistants,
  • Physical therapists,
  • Speech-language pathologists,
  • Family and general practitioners,
  • Nurse practitioners, and
  • Physician assistants.

While many of these are high-skill positions, the healthcare sector offers plentiful middle-skill jobs as well (U.S. News & World Report). In the Columbus, Ohio, region alone, it is estimated that 4,700 healthcare-related jobs will be created each year through 2018, nearly half of which will be middle-skill. These jobs pay an average of $22.30 per hour, 36 percent more than the $16.37-an-hour living wage for the region. Better alignment among policymakers, employers, and workforce boards can ensure locals reap the employment benefits of the growing sector.

Hospitals and other anchor institutions can themselves serve as workforce development institutions for the broader community. The Evergreen Cooperative in Cleveland has developed a cluster of worker co-ops created to do business with hospitals and universities (Grist). The goal is to move participants beyond entry-level skills to managerial level and ultimately to start their own businesses. The cooperative has provided laundry, local food, and solar energy services to Cleveland hospitals.

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