Pioneering PCA Curriculum Program will address critical direct care workforce crisis while offering meaningful career path and opportunities
May 5, 2022, ST. PAUL: The State of Minnesota, and our nation, face an unprecedented crisis in hiring and retaining direct care workers, also referred to as Personal Care Assistants (PCA). The PCA shortage holds dire consequences.
“For our elders and citizens living with disabilities there is no quality of life unless a well-trained, fairly compensated workforce of Personal Care Assistants and Direct Support Professionals is maintained,” stated Beth Fondell, Metropolitan Center for Independent Living, Board Chair. “The crisis of support has now become an emergency. Recognizing the lack of opportunities for growth and development in this profession has stifled recruitment and increased turnover to levels not previously witnessed.”
Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL), through a committee of stakeholders, is pleased to announce that a groundbreaking solution is underway.
The Bush Foundation provided MCIL a generous $208,000 Community Innovation Grant to help solve the PCA worker shortage crisis. Those funds support the work of MCIL’s PCA Community Innovation Project committee. The committee collaborated closely for the past three years in a shared mission to create meaningful, lasting reform that deepens career opportunities, attracts more people to new career paths,
and expands the PCA workforce. The committee’s collective effort has resulted in the landmark approach to solve the crisis by planning to develop a first-ever credit-based curriculum leading to the credential of a Certified Personal Care Assistant. Faculty at Minnesota State have also been identified to work on this far-reaching project.
The PCA Certification, based partly on the Independent Living Philosophy, is being developed as a voluntary third tier to Minnesota’s PCA Career Lattice for the 100,000+ PCAs in Minnesota and potentially for the nearly four million PCAs across the United States. Once the curriculum is completed, plans include, in cooperation and concurrence with appropriate institutions, offering this credited curriculum through high schools, post-secondary educational institutions, and workforce training centers, giving individuals direct access to a career offering professional growth opportunities, living wages, and immense personal rewards. The committee is also pursuing a formal PCA apprenticeship program with the State of Minnesota and the U.S. Department of Labor, which requires formalized education to be met by the Certified PCA curriculum. The committee is also interested in a PCA service corps education model.
“I do not know of a more severe crisis than what we are experiencing today in the Home and Community Base Services system with so many closings of Group Homes, Nursing Homes, severe worker shortages throughout our Long-Term Services and Supports system including Minnesota’s PCA Programs,” said Jesse Bethke Gomez, MCIL Executive Director. “We need to bring forth solutions such as the curriculum leading to the credential of the Certified PCA. With the development of this new Certified PCA curriculum along with the PCA Rate Framework passed into law in 2021, this is about solving the PCA crisis, and it is also about economic justice for PCAs."
The direct care workforce has the highest percentages of female and diverse workers than any other workforce sector and will see increased demand for services in the coming years. There are nearly 140,000 people employed in the direct care workforce in Minnesota, with the greatest proportion being Personal Care Assistants. The Certified Personal Care Assistant program addresses the workforce shortage while advancing economic equity through an industry-adopted credentialed career.
According to the state’s demographer, 612,000 Minnesotans have a serious disability. Furthermore, Minnesota’s elderly population in 2018 was 865,000 and is projected to rise to 1,262,000 by 2030. Dawn Simonson, Trellis President and CEO, shared, “As the metro region’s Area Agency on Aging, we applaud the development of a PCA curriculum that values the specific needs of older adults who need personal care to live in their home of choice. We appreciated the opportunity to provide input into the curriculum drawing on our perspectives as social workers and other professionals who touch the lives of more than 45,000 older adults every year.”
The Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL) played a critical role in drafting the Report on “Recommendations to Expand, Diversify and Improve Minnesota's Direct Care and Support Workforce.” MCIL Executive Director Jesse Bethke Gomez was among the technical writers for the Direct Care Workforce Report and served on the committee along with the then MCIL Board Chair Jeff Bangsberg. In March 2018, the Minnesota Omstead Sub-Cabinet approved the report and its recommendations, including “provide tiered credential options and career ladders for direct care and support professionals.”
In response to the report and in recognition of the workforce crisis, the legislature passed into law the Minnesota PCA Rate Framework in 2021, which considers competitive workforce factors such as compensation for similar positions. The new law, together with the Certified Personal Care Assistant program, can solve the equation of how, finally, a formal education program for PCAs, leads to higher, livable wages, long elusive for the PCA sector for the past 40 years.
Jesse Bethke Gomez, MCIL Executive Director: “We are grateful to The Bush Foundation and the MCIL Community Innovation PCA Committee who have helped to create the way forward and to Valerie DeFor, Executive Director of the Minnesota State HealthForce Center of Excellence, within Minnesota State, for her extraordinary expertise and leadership in working with the MCIL Community Innovation PCA Committee and on identifying faculty for the development of the college credit curriculum leading to the credential of a Certified PCA. We are thrilled to embark upon this endeavor as a scalable solution for Minnesota and for the United States.”
About MCIL: The Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL) is a Twin Cities based nonprofit 501(c)(3) consumer-directed organization founded in 1981. The mission of MCIL is "Removing Barriers, Promoting Choices" and is dedicated to the full realization of Independent Living (IL) philosophy in society by assisting individuals with disabilities in their pursuit of independent living. MCIL is one of eight Centers for Independent Living in Minnesota and is a member agency of the Minnesota Association of Centers for Independent Living. Visit MCIL-MN.org