Will Healthcare be Ready for the 2020 Employer?

Recent Georgetown University research predicts that while job opportunities will be plentiful seven years from now, there won’t be enough educated and skilled workers to fill the positions. Christopher Seward does a nice job of summarizing the research in his recent AJC article, “Will you be ready for the 2020 employer?”

As with most job reports I come across, I immediately look to any statistics around the opportunities those in the healthcare field can expect to find in the not-too-distant future. Seward relates in his research summary that “STEM, healthcare professions, healthcare support and community services will be the fastest growing occupations, but also will require high levels of post-secondary education.”

It’s no secret that the next seven years will see a huge increase in needs for patient care, as newly insured patients come into the system in 2014, and the healthcare needs of retiring baby boomers begin to escalate. How will the job market in Georgia weather these predictions? For that matter, how will job seekers first afford higher-level education that will qualify them for these 5 million job opportunities? Financing post-secondary education via government loans seems like a no-go if recent news (or lack thereof, depending on how you look at it) of capping student loan debt discussions is any indicator.

I’m an optimist by nature, and I know that our state has the infrastructure in place to educate, train and employ healthcare job seekers, especially if the economy continues to slowly but steadily get better. Universities; technical schools; nationally recognized health systems; the CDC; numerous non-profit organizations; and a vibrant bioscience, medical device and healthcare IT cluster all point to the possibility of a cohesive ecosystem of job opportunities centered on providing world-class healthcare. It’s connecting the dots between these entities – and paying for these entities – that will be the challenge.

The State Dept. of Education is already working to prepare for this job-market challenge, especially in the area of healthcare IT. It is working with the Institute for Health Information Technology to develop a HIT curriculum that can be coordinated across secondary-level and technical schools across the state. It’s early days yet for this initiative, and so it will be interesting to see how this concept plays out over the next few years in terms of funding, interest and cooperation amongst private business and other public organizations. It seems to me that it is in everyone’s best interests to help our students learn about rewarding job opportunities in healthcare today, rather than trying to usher them through a fast-track program five years from now that may or may not provide the type of experience hospitals and healthcare vendors are looking for. Time will tell.

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