There is absolutely no denying that we are facing a care workforce crisis unlike any we have ever experienced in the U.S. before. The dire mismatch between the preponderance of care that is needed and trained, fairly compensated workers that can provide such care has sparked an unprecedented national conversation, as well as bright spots of innovation. Here are five insights that give us cautious optimism about the future…
Companies like Honor and Care Academy are taking the skills and knowledge needed to be a great caregiver seriously and operationalizing them through learning and certification opportunities. Organizations like ECEPTS and the Early Childhood Investment Corporation of Michigan are designing and funding early childhood education apprentice programs, which bring rigor and the formality of a certification process and a new pipeline of talent into the field.This kind of accessible, well designed education and training is just the beginning of making care work more dignified and better paid.
Whether it’s an online platform, a concierge service, or some other format–product and systems innovators are bringing the best of human-centered design to match people up in what are often quite tender transition moments in the lives of families. Further, companies like TCare, pocketRN and BridgeCare are introducing technology-powered tools for care workers once they’ve found a placement, connecting them to the information and colleagues they need to do their best work.
Just as the care economy–as a whole–has needed framing and branding these last few years, so does the care career. Major media outlets, like the 19th and Vox have added reporters whose explicit beat is care, cultural influencers, like the Norman Lear Center, are thinking about ways to get more film and television portrayals of care work as rewarding and worthy of the creative gaze, and academics are undergirding it all by surfacing new truths about the realities and possibilities for care work.
Start-ups like Otter, Papa, and Medically Home are demonstrating how powerful it is to get folks with fresh energy into care roles. There are exciting opportunities to leverage those who have provided unpaid care to become paid caregivers, get more men into the field, and restructure care work such that people with flexibility can take advantage of opportunities to get paid to do such meaningful work.
Tired of the stories about generous care infrastructure in Scandinavia? Us too. The pandemic brought care work out of the closet and it’s not going back in. Neither should this country continue to settle for a narrative that pits working parents against childcare workers, adult daughters and sons against home healthcare aids etc. Organizations like PHI, SEIU, and Hand in Hand–along with the longtime leader, Domestic Workers United–are making sure that care workers see their solidarity with one another, and even their employers, to make sure care jobs are good jobs.