Caregiver Educational Aspirations
Education Pathways for Caregivers: An Untapped Opportunity for Employers
The delivery of high-quality care at home is under incredible pressure. The “triple tsunami” of a rapidly aging population, the global pandemic that fueled unprecedented demand for care in the home, and a hiring crisis like none the industry has ever seen before have all hit at the same time. In the middle of it all sits the professional direct care worker.
As part of CareAcademy’s mission to support the caregiving profession, we sought to understand more about how this immense pressure has impacted the professional caregiver themselves. We asked:
• What is the demographic makeup of this community?
• What motivates them to enter and stay in the profession?
• How do they choose an employer, and what makes them stay?
• What are their educational and career ambitions?
And much more.
This first-of-its-kind research uncovers several key insights that provide a critical roadmap to unlocking the recruiting and retention challenges home care and home health operators face every day.
In fact, the signals in the data are clear: Agencies that offer support for the pursuit of ongoing education will have a competitive advantage in the industry. Eighty-five percent of the 1,500 caregivers surveyed indicated they would be more likely to stay with an agency that offered this support. And further, 94% of caregivers say access to further education is an important consideration in accepting a job offer.
In short: Offering support for ongoing education is an untapped opportunity for agencies to materially impact their recruiting and retention efforts—and it’s completely within their control. And yet, despite caregivers’ overwhelming interest, 75% said their employer has never talked with them about ongoing education or training. This must change now.
“Education Pathways for Caregivers: An Untapped Opportunity for Employers” offers both a glimpse into the minds of caregivers and a path for agencies to facilitate upskilling opportunities with far-reaching benefits. This study finds that direct care workers, agency employers, and the clients in their care benefit from increased access to training and specialization—ultimately, improving client health outcomes through education.
Who are the direct care workers? In this section, we examine the breakdown of educational attainment, employment status, household income, age, race, and gender among caregivers in our sample. The goal is to better understand the demographic makeup of the direct care workforce in order to identify ways to best support workers in all groups.
Caregivers’ Motivation and Support for Continuing Education and Program of Interest
This section examines caregivers’ interest in continuing education and upskilling. The goal is to assess the degree of motivation for further education, the menu of programs that they would prefer to pursue, and factors that may deter enrollment into these programs.
Q1. Are you interested in further education?
Overall, caregivers expressed high interest in upgrading their skills through education. Nearly 7 out of 10 respondents indicated an interest in pursuing higher education beyond their current highest levels of education.
Caregivers’ strong interest in furthering their education was consistent across all levels of educational attainment. In each education grouping, two to four times as many respondents expressed interest compared to those who did not.
Why do direct care workers want to pursue higher education? Thirty-six percent said they want to use their education to make a positive impact on the community, 28% to improve their job opportunities, and 16% to expand their educational horizons. Only 11% of respondents said they wish to pursue further education to make more money.
Q2. Does interest in further education vary by demographics?
Those who showed greater interest in continuing education were mainly females of age 25 to 54 years who work more than 30 hours per week with at least one year of experience and earn an annual income of less than $50,000. This outsized interest from female caregivers could be because an overwhelming 91% of respondents were female caregivers. In total, there did not appear to be a significant difference between those who were interested versus those who were not interested in pursuing further education across any one demographic or ethnographic grouping.
Interest in continuing education far outweighed lack of interest across all age groups. Among those between the ages of 35 and 64, who constituted roughly 60% of the sample, interest is high. However, interest only declined slightly in older caregivers indicating a desire for lifelong learning
The observed high interest in additional education across all demographic and ethnographic groups presents opportunities for agencies and educational institutions of all types to step in and make it possible for caregivers to continue education in their desired program. Section 3 explores insights into these educational programs.
Understanding Caregivers’ Educational Priorities and Obstacles to Further Education
With nearly 70% of all caregivers interested in pursuing continuing education, it is important to understand what programs direct care workers want to explore, as well as the key roadblocks to pursuing that education.
Q3. What educational opportunities are caregivers interested in?
Among those who showed motivation to upskill and/or continue their education, more than one-third (35%) indicated they wished to earn an aide or assistant certification (e.g. HHA, CHHA, CNA, etc.)
If they were given access to further education, most caregivers (61%) would be interested in becoming
a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), a nurse (e.g. Licensed Practical Nurse, Registered Nurse, etc.) or a career in another healthcare-related field. Based on the information above, they would be most interested in earning these certifications or degrees from a community college or CNA school.
Nearly 4 out of every 5 caregivers (77%) would prefer to pursue these programs on a part-time schedule. In addition, close to 8 in 10 caregivers prefer courses offered through a mix of in-person and online (41%) or remote-only (36%), two options that would make it possible to pursue upskilling opportunities while remaining employed.
Q4. What factors deter caregivers from pursuing further education or training?
Despite the sizable interest in continuing education and/or upskilling, certain factors hinder the caregivers’ effective enrollment into a program of interest. The barriers that caregivers face often mean that they are not able to explore those options. The survey found costs (27%), work schedules (26%), and household caretaking responsibilities (24%) as the top limitations holding them back.
When choosing a degree program for further education, caregivers identified cost or affordability (27%), program flexibility (25%), and ease of getting a job after graduation (20%) as the top three most important factors.
Q5. What types of support resources would likely encourage caregivers to pursue further education opportunities?
Most caregivers indicated that they would likely pursue further education if they received tuition assistance or financial aid (28%), had the ability to earn credits for job training or experience (25%), or were given more access to academic or career advising services (20%). Another 18% indicated that more assistance with caretaking or household responsibilities would motivate them to continue their education.
Interest is high across support services. However, for those who selected tuition assistance or financial aid, interest in pursuing further education was twice as high. This would indicate that financial aid or tuition assistance is the most likely lever to open up pathways to ongoing education for this highly motivated cohort.
Similarly, the ability to earn credits through job training and access to academic and career orientation services could reduce the cost of education by helping caregivers enroll in more targeted courses. Agencies have a major role to play in supporting these ambitions. And the data signals two important opportunities: Recruiting and retention.
A Role for Employers to Improve Caregiver Recruitment, Retention, and Overall Caregiver Satisfaction
In this section we examine the role of caregivers’ current employers and the potential impact of continuing education (and upskilling) on recruitment, retention, and job satisfaction.
Q6. Has your employer ever talked to you about improving or learning skills through further education or training?
Although 69% of caregivers expressed high motivation or interest in continuing education, three-fourths of them indicated that their current employers have never talked about improving skills through further education or training.
Q7. When considering a job offer, how important is access to additional education?
Nearly all caregivers sampled signaled that access to additional education is at least a moderately important consideration when deciding whether to accept a job offer. A full 64% of respondents indicated that it was very important.
As expected, those who expressed interest in continuing education were about three times more likely to say access to education is either very or moderately important (67%) than those who were not interested (26%).
Q8. How does improving skills through further education and training impact caregivers’ job satisfaction?
Nearly 9 in 10 caregivers indicated that they would feel greater satisfaction in their job if they improved their skills through further education and training.
Additionally, caregivers who expressed interest in continuing education were almost four times more likely to say they would feel significantly more satisfied at their current job if they were offered access to further education.
This data suggests that avenues to improve skills through further education and training have a positive impact on job satisfaction, especially among those who are motivated to continue education.
Q9. How likely are caregivers to continue working for their current employers if offered access to further education?
Nearly 9 out of every 10 caregivers indicated that they are either very likely (68%) or somewhat likely (17%) to continue working for their current employers if the employer offered resources to pursue further education.
Caregivers who expressed interest in further education were three times more likely to say they are very likely going to stay with their current employers if offered access to further education, relative to those who did not express interest.
Q10. What types of support resources would encourage caregivers to stay with their current employers?
Previous findings suggest that providing access to further education or training increases the likelihood of retention. In addition, we asked direct care workers what other benefits would influence their decision to stay. Not surprisingly, higher wages and/or bonuses (27%) and offering better benefits (18%) ranked highest on the list. Other notable benefits include job promotions or leadership opportunities and flexible scheduling, each at 14%.
Initially, caregivers identified the high cost of education as a primary obstacle to continuing education. As such, it makes sense that higher wages and/or bonuses and better job benefits ranked as the top two options to encourage caregivers to pursue further education. Potentially, higher wages and/or better benefits could reduce the cost of education and training. And, when direct care workers gain access to further education, job satisfaction goes up and job retention increases.
To deliver quality healthcare, education is rapidly becoming a new health intervention as healthcare moves into home and community-based organizations. At the same time, the direct care workforce is facing a massive hiring crisis to reach the levels needed—potentially as many as 7.4M new workers by 2029, according to PHI research.
It is clear from this research that caregivers are highly interested in continuing their education and pursuing upskilling opportunities, even in the face of significant barriers. Furthermore, the data suggests that employers who offer these opportunities are more attractive to job candidates and more likely to retain workers.
The good news is that the majority of caregivers who aspire to continue their education plan to remain in the healthcare field. This means employers have an opportunity to make an incredible impact by enabling access to educational opportunities for caregivers. Providing these opportunities will both attract more new entrants to the caregiving industry now, and build a pipeline of future CNAs, nurses, and other critical healthcare professionals for the future.
The data provides a clear roadmap for agencies to better engage their workforce. Agencies must begin a discussion with their caregivers on the types of ongoing education they would like and how to break through the collective roadblocks they face. Agencies who take these steps will be seen as employers of choice and will have the advantage of a highly satisfied, highly motivated workforce working to deliver high-quality care in the home.
The time to act is now.
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