Montana state officials expect the state to face a shortage of healthcare professionals within the next 10 years, reflecting a national concern that the industry won't be able to keep up with increased demand.
Healthcare is the largest private sector of Montana's economy, at 14.3%, with 74,000 workers. But with the baby boomer population facing retirement, Montana predicts the demand for healthcare services will outnumber the available workforce, officials said at a town hall meeting Monday attended by Gov. Steve Bullock.
The state's healthcare industry is expected to grow by 1.8% each year, or 1,300 jobs annually, until 2024, said Amy Watson, an economist for the Montana Labor Department. Watson said data suggests there won't be enough people to fill those positions.
In the next decade, approximately 130,000 people will retire, yet only 123,000 Montana residents ages 16 to 24 will be entering the labor market, said Barbara Wagner, chief economist for the state's Labor Department. Wagner notes that not all of those people will be entering the healthcare industry.
The Montana Labor Department has implemented initiatives to address the shortage. For example, the department has partnered with two-year colleges to create apprenticeship programs for perspective healthcare workers in rural areas. HealthCare Montanaprovides students with job experience in their future healthcare field, such as nursing.
Montana's projected shortage echoes concerns raised nationally. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the healthcare industry to grow by 19% from 2014 to 2024, adding about 2.3 million jobs to the economy. The Affordable Care Act has increased demand for healthcare services as the baby boomer population begins to leave the workforce.