The Workforce Development Role of Community Colleges for Home and Community Based Services

The growth of the older adult population is placing pressure on a number of professions. The magnitude of this pressure will be immense for home and community-based service providers (HCBS). The workforce management challenges that this represents to HCBS providers must be met through a thorough professionalization of their workforce.  A new brief by the Caregiving Project for Older Americans outlines the role that community-colleges can play in this process.

There are two major factors operating alongside the growth of the older adult population that are increasing demand for HCBS services. First, many older adults express their desire to age-in-place in their own homes. Second, substantial funds have been allocated towards HCBS services at both the state and federal level. The most recent example comes from the CLASS Act provisions in the recent health reform bill passed by Congress, which will provide daily cash benefits for HCBS services. Medicaid is also increasingly directing funds into these services.

All of this is exciting news for HCBS providers, however it creates workforce related challenges. The primary question is this: Are the skills and education of the workforce going to match the ever changing demands and caregiving needs of older adults in the future?

Currently the education and skill level of the average HCBS worker falls short of these demands. This is partially due to wide variations in the availability and quality of caregiver training and education across the nation. Related, family caregivers often do not have the knowledge and resources they need to care for their loved ones.

To fill the education and training gaps of both paid and family caregivers community colleges must play a key role. Community-colleges are in a position to offer timely education to the HCBS workforce and family caregivers through their existing health professions programs. Programs like the Caregiver Training Initiatives have demonstrated the feasibility of such programs through a nationwide network of community colleges.  This network has delivered upon certificate programs for home health aides, built home care into certified nursing assistant curriculum, provided skills and resource training for family caregivers, kick started peer mentorship programs, and sponsored conferences and workshops on caregiving.

To meet the future demands of an aging population these programs must be expanded through the nationwide network of community colleges and through online training programs for in-home and family caregivers.

For more information, see the report at http://www.ilcusa.org/media/pdfs/CTI_Issue_Brief_Mar_2010.pdf.

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