Report title: Who Will Care? The Workforce Crisis in Human Services

Author(s): Christina Citino, Michael Goodman

Report date: February 2017

Sponsor: The Massachusetts Human Service Providers’ Council

Issue areas: labor markets, workforce development, human services, healthcare

Summary & key findings: Produced in partnership with the UMass Donahue Institute, the purpose of this report is to highlight the challenges providers face as they strive to meet growing service needs and the impact of the workforce shortage on the sustainability of the human services industry. The major findings of the report include:

  • Pressures to fill open human services positions in Massachusetts will increase as the Massachusetts workforce shortage worsens.
  • Human services employers detailed the threefold impact of chronic understaffing: (1) providers are unable to shift or expand services as client/consumer needs change and grow, (2) clients/consumers are more likely to be placed on waiting lists or experience longer delays in receiving critically important services and (3) clients’/consumers’ treatment is disrupted by turnover and/or vacancies.
  • Human services employers are struggling with an applicant pool that does not meet their needs. For example, the majority of employers surveyed report that applicants lack required skills, education, or credentials. After lack of skills, the second most critical issue that employers identify is that too few people are applying for open positions. Additionally, many employers view state government as their major workforce competitor, noting that younger workers start in community-based organizations before transitioning into state government positions, which require more experience but offer better pay and benefits.

In order to sustain the industry and meet its growing workforce needs, human services employers clearly reported that Massachusetts policy makers must work in partnership with them to develop comprehensive and coordinated solutions to this growing problem. Specifically, they recommended that the Commonwealth needs to:

  • Serve as a champion for the community-based human services industry;
  • Attract and develop a clear career path for millennials into community-based human services;
  • Provide sufficient funding so that employers can offer salaries commensurate with those offered to state employees performing similar jobs;
  • Fund government mandates, such as fingerprint screenings;
  • Support loan forgiveness and tuition remission programs for human services workers; and
  • Establish appropriate guidelines to make it easier for organizations to hire and retain foreign-born workers through a work or training visa.

Above all else, providers recognize that the industry and policy makers must engage in a concerted effort to address the issue of wage parity now.

Report link:  Access the report here.