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Forum looks at ‘The Changing Face of Human Services’

Researchers commissioned by the Providers’ Council to produce a report on how the human services workforce will change in the coming decade presented early data to more than 100 Council members and sector stakeholders at a forum on April 6.

Christina Citino, a senior research manager from the UMass Donahue Institute, and Michael Goodman, the executive director of the Public Policy Center and an associate professor at UMass Dartmouth, discussed their preliminary research during “The Changing Face of Human Services” forum in Natick. They were joined by Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald L. Walker II; Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) Commissioner Nicky Osborne; Dr. Kathee Jordan, the Senior Vice President and Chief Program Officer at Seven Hills Foundation; and Dafna Krouk-Gordon, the Founder and President of Toward Independent Living and Learning (TILL).

Some key findings presented during the forum include:

  • One in five jobs in Massachusetts are in the Health Care and Social Assistance (HC/SA)  category and 26 percent of those – more than 156,000 -- are in human services;
  • Since 2008, job growth in HC/SA has been 9 percent overall, but human services jobs grew at a rate of about 27 percent;
  • Nationally, HC/SA is projected to have the highest job growth between 2014 and 2024 at 21 percent; and
  • Many human service occupations are already reporting a significant number of job vacancies for both new positions and replacement positions – for example there were approximately 1,600 vacancies in 2013 for school social workers and data suggests 1,000 more new social workers will be needed by 2022.

Goodman noted that Massachusetts’ robust economy and low unemployment rate are going to present challenges meeting the staffing demands in the human services sector. Employers will need to consider recruiting in other parts of the country, finding ways to appeal to the millennial workforce and increasing reliance on foreign-born people.

“If we’re going to staff these positions,” Goodman said, “we’re going to have to rethink our approach to work and appeal to outside markets. Figuring out ways to raise pay or non-compensation benefits or flexibility is going to be critical to filling this gap and appealing to the next generation.”