Minnesota faces a severe shortage of personal care assistants (PCAs) throughout the state. According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, personal care and service positions have 10,155 vacancies as of the second quarter of 2019. The gap between the amount of available positions and workers seeking employment is expected to worsen because of the boomer generation’s retirement and increasing medical needs. Areas outside of the metropolitan area feel the impact of the shortage to a greater extent, leaving the people of Greater Minnesota with few options.
Legislation was heard in the Human Services Reform Committee this week to create a new program, called the Direct Care Service Corps Pilot Project, which encourages postsecondary students from around the state to work as PCAs. The committee also heard this bill last year before the COVID-19 crisis shifted the Legislature’s priorities towards pandemic response.
With this proposal, students would provide a much-needed influx of workers into the industry and alleviate the immediate impacts of the worker shortage. The program is beneficial to postsecondary students as they would receive financial incentives for their service as well as valuable work experience. Students can help their community through directed service while receiving financial benefits and closing a gap in the labor market.
The problem of unfilled positions in the personal care industry is critical because it directly impacts the elderly and people with disabilities. When people in need are unable to receive their required care, many are forced into group or nursing homes. Family and friends may also take off work or reduce their hours to compensate for the care that their loved ones should be receiving from PCAs. Without programs to encourage more workers to enter the sector, those in need and their loved ones are burdened with inadequate healthcare and financial stress. (SF 111)