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The Gap Between Skilled Healthcare Workers and Support Jobs

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, July 2, 2012

Carnevale says that test scores show that many healthcare support staff come from the bottom half of their high school classes. "But relative to other people in the bottom half of the high school class the healthcare support workers have more job security and they earn two to three grand more a year than the people who tested like them. From their point of view, this is as good a deal as they are going to get," he says. "But it is not a good deal. … These jobs tends to make people better off but they don't make them well off, that is clear."

The big hurdle for support staff remains the level of education. "When we look at the test scores typical of a healthcare support worker and the test scores of a professional and technical worker, there are about three to four school years of difference," Carnevale says. "The ability to move someone from support to professional technical is going to take a lot of doing."

Still, Carnevale says, the Georgetown center has examined years of national educational longitudinal surveys and estimates that about 20% of the healthcare support staff have the test scores that would suggest they are "highly trainable."

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