Skills Gap Looming as Health Care Workers Age

June 29, 2010 ( – A new report points out that as the nation prepares to provide care for the increasing proportion of older adults, health care workers are aging out of the sector.

According to the report by the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College, compared to other sectors, the demographic profile of the U.S. health care sector is disproportionately composed of older workers. Yet a lower percentage of health care organizations have assessed (to a moderate/great extent) the age of their workforces (29%), the skills they anticipate needing (42%), or the competency sets of current employees (48%), compared to other industries (43%, 54% and 61%, respectively).   

A press release said evidence suggests that the sector is at least somewhat aware of the impending skills gap. About two in three employees in the health sector have received formal training from their employers (62%), and greater than one in three workers are involved in decision-making task forces (36%) or self-managed teams (39%).   

“The impending retirement of such a highly skilled workforce is creating shortages that could potentially affect the process and delivery of certain types of care,” said Center Director Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, co-primary investigator for the (2009) Talent Management Study and co-author of the report, in the press release.  

Health care employers report top skill areas in short supply include: management (42.4%), sales/marketing (34.8%), legal (33%), operations (29%), and technical computer skills (27.6%). Additionally, health care organizations report a greater shortage of customer-relations skills (26%), and nearly one in five employers (17%) reported skill needs in areas such as literacy, writing, and math.   

The report is here.