Florida weathers national jobs storm

Healthcare jobs throughout the state of Florida remained in demand throughout the recession and have stayed strong despite an overall weak U.S. labor market, state officials report. Going forward, however, state data shows that some titles will show more growth than others.

Representatives from different work groups shared their observations at a mid-January conference of the Select Committee on Health Care Workforce Innovation.

One of the significant healthcare job projects going on in the state is the Employ Florida Health Care Initiative, launched to help unemployed Floridians find jobs in the healthcare sector and to help people already in the profession move up the career ladder, said Ric Shriver, vice president of Human Resources for the Hospital Corporation of America and a member of the Workforce Florida Board.

Consisting of multiple phases and regions, key components of the program include identifying occupations of critical concern to healthcare employers, rigorously pre-assessing candidates to ensure an appropriate aptitude and interest fit with the healthcare profession and streamlining the employed worker training application processes. Over the past four years, the program has issued approximately $6 million for multi-faceted initiatives in various regions of Florida.

In evaluating the success of the program so far, Shriver reports that “most of the regions and projects are progressing well. Most of the participating regions are on track with their enrollments. One region has surpassed their planned enrollments by 46%. Three of the four participating workforce boards greatly exceeded their projected enrollments and completions.”

In highlighting some of the project details, Shriver pointed to Round 2, which included 12 participating regions from October 2009 to June 30, 2011. The project consisted of training and development of medical code specialty certification, health information technicians, an LPN-RN upgrade and transitioning workers with healthcare backgrounds to pursue higher levels of training in nursing, pharmacy and health information.

Gauging demand

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and Bureau of Labor Market Statistics has conducted a detailed study of the state healthcare job market and is using the data to understand levels of employment  in order to project which positions will be needed in the future, said Bureau spokeswoman Rebecca Rust.

“Medical occupations are among the fastest growing in the Florida economy due to the aging of the population, population growth and advances in medical technology,” she said. “The highest demand occupations in healthcare generally require more education, training and pay relatively higher wages.”

Job titles showing the most robust growth include registered nurses, pharmacy technicians, home health aides, diagnostic medical sonographers, physical therapy assistants, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, mental health workers, physician assistants and laboratory technicians.

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