by Cameron Macht
The aging trend that is being led by the baby boom generation will completely reshape the Central Minnesota region both demographically and economically. According to new projections from the Minnesota State Demographic Center, by 2030 the region will have nearly 200,000 people aged 65 years and over, accounting for almost 23 percent of the total population. As the population continues growing – and growing older – the demand for health care services will also keep going up, creating job opportunities.
Health Care Growth in Central Minnesota
Over the last decade, the health care and social assistance industry gained the most new jobs in the Central Minnesota region. But as the population continues aging, the demand for services is shifting. Almost one quarter of the region’s health care job growth occurred in the long-term care sectors, including home health care, nursing home care, and assisted living facilities. Combined, those three industry subsectors offer more than 10,500 jobs at 149 long-term care establishments.
Long-Term Growth in Long-Term Care
Because of Central Minnesota’s growing and aging population, health care and social assistance is projected to add the most new jobs in the region over the next decade. Of the 16,000 net new jobs forecast in health care from 2010 to 2020, more than 4,750 of those jobs are expected to be added in long-term care. In fact, home health care services and community care facilities are projected to be the second- and third-fastest growing sectors in the entire region.
Despite the promise of growing and on-going demand for thousands of new jobs over at least the next two decades, the long-term care industry often struggles to attract new workers. Many of the occupations in demand in long-term care have lower educational and training requirements, offer lower wage and benefit packages, and consequently have higher turnover rates.
Three jobs account for about half of total employment in long-term care:
Home health and personal care aides are typically trained on the job and earn a median hourly wage of less than $11.00 in Central Minnesota. Nursing aides require postsecondary vocational training, usually through a two- to five-week training program available on-site or at two-year colleges, and earn about a dollar more per hour.
Many long-term care facilities also rely on other low-skill, low-wage workers such as maids and housekeeping cleaners, cafeteria cooks, food preparation workers, and recreation workers, all of whom earn between $9 and $14 per hour. However, long-term care also uses some higher-level health care practitioners, such as licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, physical therapists, health care social workers, and medical and health services managers, which all require an associate degree or higher.
Ironically, this long-term aging phenomenon is creating a crisis in the long-term care industry. As more and more of the population reaches retirement age and eventually needs long-term care services, there are fewer workers to fill these jobs. And while in the past the majority of long-term care was provided by family members, as each older or disabled person’s needs become too much to handle or there is no one on whom to depend, a growing portion of long-term care is being purchased from professional or paraprofessional service providers.