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Health Care Workers In Region to Rise to 100,000 By 2010

The overall job market in San Diego has slowed considerably, but not in the health care industry, where there are more openings than trained applicants, said health professionals at a recent careers conference.

“We all know there’s going to be health care shortages and it’s only going to get worse,” said Carol Van Horst, chief executive of Brighton Health Alliance, a San Diego nursing home operator.

Van Horst and others spoke about the prospects for certain jobs in the region at the release of the Occupational Outlook Report by the San Diego Workforce Partnership, a regional job training agency. The May 15 event was held at Qualcomm Inc. theater in Sorrento Mesa.

The number of health care workers in San Diego in 2004 was 82,161, but by 2010, it’s expected to exceed 100,000, making it among the area’s biggest employers, said Terri Bergman, director of research for the Workforce Partnership.

The industry also has a myriad of job opportunities that permit people to take different career ladders or paths, Bergman said. “As you move up, there’s a lot of folks needed at every level,” she said.

With the first wave of the baby boomer generation facing retirement in the next few years, the number of health care providers and workers to staff the facilities will be expanding, speakers said.


Wanted: Qualified Workers

But despite providers paying above median salaries for these jobs, there continues to be a growing gap in finding qualified workers, said several speakers.

A big problem is the lack of slots where the training takes place. For example, at Cal State San Marcos, this fall’s class of prospective nurses will number only 44 students. However, the number applying to the nursing program was 1,300, said Judy Papenhausen, director of the nursing school.

Of those who applied, the school sent out acceptance letters to 500, but that number needed to be further reduced several times simply because the program requires more teachers and supervision than other programs.

“Nursing is probably one of the most expensive disciplines on our campus. While an English class may have 100 students, there may be only 10 students in a nursing class. We need excellent supervision to guarantee patient safety,” Papenhausen said.

The payoff for those completing nursing programs is a wage well above the area’s median. The latest Occupational Outlook Report put the median hourly wage for new nurses at $23.85, or $50,000 annually. But with just three years’ experience, the median salary is nearly $32 an hour, making the annual salary $66,500.

The same report estimates that the region will need 847 new nurses every year through 2014.

To alert high school students about the opportunities in health care, schools such as CSUSM and Palomar College have instituted outreach programs to provide those interested with introductory courses and credits that can be transferred when they go to college, Papenhausen said.


The Numbers

The Workforce Partnership also published a new pamphlet about the health care industry, showing what different jobs pay, the education needed to qualify, and where to obtain training.

The pamphlet also gives information about salaries needed for a single person to live in San Diego. The basic level to survive is said to be $30,000, but that’s rock bottom and includes no frills.

In 2006, the median yearly wage for all health care workers was $49,700, but for health care practitioners, technologists and technicians, the median was $62,900, according to the pamphlet.

The 2007 version of the Occupational Outlook covers 32 jobs, ranging from anesthesia technicians to veterinary assistants.

The report includes research on occupations that tend to employ ex-offenders; a look at what companies are doing in regard to replacing retiring workers; and the levels of math and science required in specific positions.

Celebrating its 20th year of researching the job landscape, the Workforce Partnership did a comparison of wages of selected jobs, along with other financial, social and political facts, for 1988 and 2007.

Among the more interesting tidbits: A gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in 1988: 90 cents; 2007, $3.10 (data collection was completed in November). The median price of a house in 1988 was $144,000, and in 2007, $490,000. The unemployment rate in 1988 was 4.9 percent, and in 2006, 3.9 percent.

The report is used by local educators and training providers to ensure their programs have job openings. Others that use the report include employers, job seekers, career changers and students, according to the Workforce Partnership.

The report is available both in print and CD-ROM formats by contacting the organization at www.SanDiegoAtWork.com.

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