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Linking Workforce Development, Education & Economic Development In Armstrong, Butler & Indiana Counties

Health Care

The Tri-County WIB has been fortunate to have interested and engaged local partners who have contributed greatly to supporting efforts in the health care cluster area. Acute care facilities, community-based health care agencies, long-term care facilities, human service agencies, nursing and other health professions associations, post-secondary training providers, and workforce and economic development agencies have come together locally to form industry cluster partnership in health care in each of the three counties. In 2001-2002, representatives in Southwestern PA conducted industry cluster analyses for the region. In March of 2002, the WIB worked with the PA Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Information Analysis and utilized the Regional Data Analysis Tool (RDAT) to define the area’s key industry clusters. The results of the WIB’s local industry cluster analysis produced several key industries which drive the local economy. Not surprisingly, health care was determined to be one of the priority cluster areas. This information is echoed by the Center for Workforce Information and Analysis’ report entitled “Pennsylvania’s Targeted Industry Clusters.” As a result, health care was identified as one of the key industry clusters for which the WIB chose to direct its efforts.

Current RDAT Data indicates that there are 600 local employers in health care with 14,721 employees in 2008. The Location Quotient (LQ) is .93 for all of health care but even higher in more specific NAICS codes such as home health care services with an LQ of 1.48, nursing care facilities with an LQ of .99, kidney dialysis centers with an LQ of 1.41, continuing care retirement communities with an LQ of 1.30, and homes for the elderly with an LQ of 1.86. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health services is one of the largest industries in the country, with about 14.9 million jobs. It is predicted that between 2006 and 2016, health care jobs will increase 2.4% per year with an expected 18.9 million jobs by 2016 nationally. Within the tri-county area, health care accounts for over 11% of the total number of individuals employed in the three counties. Health care employers are among the top 50 employers in each of our three counties with health care practitioner wages averaging more than the county wage.

As of June 2009, Tri-County’s civilian labor force totaled 180,600, which includes 166,000 employed and 14,600 unemployed. While the civilian labor force grew by 2,600 since last year, unemployment has gone up dramatically by 5,600 individuals. Despite the economic downturn, a survey of local businesses conducted by TCWIB indicated that the health care industry was still hiring. According to the PA Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Information and Analysis, the total state population is expected to increase 1.3 percent between the years 2000 to 2010. Pennsylvania ranks second only to Florida in number of citizens age 65 and over, and the largest statewide increases are projected to occur in the 55-59 and 60-64 age groups. Conversely, the number of Pennsylvanians aged 30-44 is expected to decline. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that between 1977 and 2007, employment of workers 65 and over increased 101 percent, compared to a much smaller increase of 59 percent for total employment (16 and over). With fewer workers in this prime working age group and with a large number of expected retirements, the focus will be on preventing a labor shortage in the future and retaining experienced employees. This will especially affect the health care industry since there will be a need for increased services at the same time that there is a decline in workers. It is thought that by 2018, labor force entrants from following generations may be insufficient to replace workers as they retire. Since 2002, the civilian labor force has grown approximately 5%. This is because Butler County is experiencing growth well above the state level (14.5%), due primarily to migration from Allegheny County to the Cranberry Township area. The local area is also competing with neighboring counties for health care workers because of the large hospitals located in Pittsburgh.

It is widely known that health care is still facing a major workforce crisis. Unlike other shortages, which tend to show a cyclical nature, this crisis is poised to continue as the large number of baby boomers continue to age. Along with the rising age of the general population, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports that the demand for full-time RNs will begin to exceed supply by 2010. This crisis is not only affecting nurses, but all health care occupations. While the supply of workers is decreasing, we are also experiencing another problem identified by the National Council of State Board of Nursing that the number of nursing school graduates who sat for the NCLEX-RN national licensure exam has decreased nearly 29%. The percentage of new nurses under thirty has dropped to approximately 9% of the total number of working nurses. While the nurse education initiatives will provide great financial assistance to these students, there is still a greater need for nurse educators.

The “Licensed Practical Nurse Workforce in Pennsylvania Report” from the PA Center for Health Careers indicated that southwest PA will be 9% short of the 2010 demand for LPNs. Specifically, the Tri-County workforce area will be 3% short. According to the “Registered Nurse Workforce in Pennsylvania Report” from the PA Center for Health Careers, Pennsylvania will have a continually growing gap between the demand for RNS and the supply of RNs willing to work in health care. The ratio of RNs over 35 years old to RNs under 35 is five to one. Also, affecting the crisis is that 23% of RNs choose not to work in health care with 18% not passing the licensing examination. According to the U.S. Census Bureau report, “The Geographic Distribution and Characteristics of Older Workers in Pennsylvania,” of the workers 55 and older in the state’s metropolitan statistical areas, 16.3% were employed in Health Care and Social Assistance, the highest proportion for that age group state wide among industrial sectors.

The Tri-County High Priority Occupation Lists also illustrates the needs for various health care occupations now and projected through 2014. For example, there is an average of 55 openings a year for RNs with a 25% increase needed between 2004 and 2014. Increases also show for physician assistants, mental health counselors, pharmacists, dietetic technicians, LPNs, Medical Records, home health aides, nursing aides, etc. Home health aides show that there will be a 45.5% increase in the number of positions.

This data indicates the continued need to address health care workforce development needs. Therefore, local employers believe it is crucial to continue the work of the local industry partnership with recruitment and retention strategies.

The Tri-County Health Care Consortium has adopted the following initiatives:

  • Identify the specific training needs of health care workers as determined by the members and offer the training.
  • Assist health care workers in advancing on the career ladder
  • Educate the public and youth on rewarding and attainable careers in health care
  • Identify best practices in training and career ladders that could be shared to strengthen the region’s retention rates.
  • Support the capacity building among the local and regional industry cluster groups to ensure the partnership have the ability to achieve their missions effectively and maintain their sustainability.
  • Implement recruitment and retention strategies to improve the health care service delivery in the three counties.
  • Recognize health care workers for their service and commitment to their professions

Click here to learn more about health care education in Western PA.

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Western Pennsylvania Schools Offering Health-Related Courses:


Community College of Beaver County


Westmoreland County Community College


Slippery Rock University


DeVry University


Indiana University of Pennsylvania


Penn State New Kensington


Pittsburgh Technical Institute


Carlow University


Sanford Brown


Community College of Allegheny County


Chatham University


Duquesne University


Gannon University


Seton Hill University


University of Pittsburgh


Lenape Vocation Technical School


Western School