RALEIGH — North Carolina leaders are projecting shortages in direct care workers, nurses and other caregiving positions in the coming decade. At the same time, demand for these services is rising. To address this gap, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the North Carolina Department of Commerce are leading North Carolina’s new Caregiving Workforce Strategic Leadership Council.
North Carolina lost more than 9% of its direct care workforce between 2016-2021. Based on the Department of Commerce’s projected job openings for 2021-2030, direct care workers represent the most needed health care job in North Carolina. Prior to the pandemic, North Carolina expected a shortage of 12,500 Registered Nurses (RNs) and 5,000 Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) by 2033, which worsens when adjusted for recent trends, according to the UNC Sheps Center. Employees are leaving the field for reasons including better pay opportunities, easier working conditions or to stay at home and take care of their families.
The Council aims to reverse this trend by addressing the complex problem head-on and strengthen the pipeline of caregivers, whose work directly and indirectly improves the health and well-being of all North Carolinians. Nurses, doctors and behavioral health providers offer treatment when people are sick. Direct care workers, such as personal care aids and other assistants, help preserve dignity for those who, because of a health condition, disability and/or age, require support for daily activities like dressing, eating and following a medication schedule. All of these workers deserve competitive wages for the lifesaving and life-changing work they do.
“The caregiving workforce supports every person in North Carolina, whether you need help daily or during an emergency,” said NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “Leadership Council members are committed to working together to create real solutions that build a workforce pipeline, forge career pathways and address financing strategies that support sustainable wages so we can avert this coming crisis.”
“North Carolina’s caregivers not only work to keep our workforce healthy, but they also play a vital role in the state’s economy,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “We can continue to recruit and retain these critical jobs using a more inclusive and equitable approach — and this council’s work is an important step in the right direction.”
The Caregiving Workforce Strategic Leadership Council will use data and expert input to identify strengths and challenges facing this critical workforce and to develop coordinated action. The first three focus areas are the direct care, nursing and behavioral health segments. The Council is using recently published Employment Projections from the Department of Commerce, as well as expertise from the NC Area Health Education Center, to help guide its decision-making.
N.C. Commerce publishes statewide industry and occupational employment projections reflecting estimates of the future demand for workers. This year, N.C. Commerce’s enhanced projections intend to provide more context on the pandemic recovery and associated employment changes, shaping the projections through 2030.
Key highlights of the 2021-2030 Statewide Employment Projections include:
- North Carolina is projected to add more than 445,000 new jobs between 2021 and 2030.
- Health Care & Social Assistance, the largest industry in North Carolina’s economy, is projected to add the most jobs (76,000) by 2030.
- The Health Care & Social Assistance industry is projected to grow at a higher rate than North Carolina industries overall, with the fifth highest percentage growth among all industries (at 12.7%).
To create the Council, Secretary Kinsley and Secretary Sanders nominated leaders from across state government and the education sector to participate, including partners from the Office of Governor Roy Cooper, N.C. Department of Commerce, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, N.C. Department of Labor, N.C. State Board of Education, N.C. Department of Public Instruction, N.C. Area Health Education Center, N.C. Community College System, N.C. Independent Colleges and Universities, University of North Carolina and Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.