Community colleges in the Central Valley are falling short of providing enough allied health care workers to meet demand, a potential "crisis" that will be exacerbated by retiring baby boomers in the coming decade, according to a recently released report.
The author of the report is Michelle Marquez of the Center of Excellence at Modesto Junior College, a group that analyzes work force needs and provides the information to California's community colleges. Marquez said health care programs need to be "proactive" to address the shortages.
The report was created for 14 community colleges throughout the Central Valley and foothills, including Modesto Junior College, San Joaquin Delta College, Columbia College and Merced College.
It focused on the work force needs of the allied health sector, which includes about 48 jobs, such as emergency medical technicians, home health aides, radiology technicians, respiratory therapists, surgical technicians and pharmacy technicians. It did not include licensed nursing occupations or dental positions.
By 2014, allied health occupations are projected to produce nearly 12,000 new jobs in the Central Valley, as well as 17,000 "replacement" jobs that are expected to be vacated through retirements or attrition.
The most critical needs are for physical therapists, medical lab technicians and health information technicians, such as medical billers and coders, Marquez said.
There are more than 2,800 job openings annually for allied health occupations, but in 2005 the Central Valley community colleges produced just 374 "program completions," an 87 percent gap.
"The gap presents a clear and urgent need for community colleges in the Central Region to take action and actively address the pressing needs in the allied health care work force," Marquez wrote in the report.
Other findings of the report show that a large number of allied health care workers in the Central Valley obtain their credentials through private, for-profit schools, but employers prefer to have community college graduates because they require less on-the-job training.
"They really want their employees trained from the California community colleges. They feel like there is a level of standards they can't get anywhere else," Marquez said.
The report, released last week, is meant to guide community college leaders in developing their programs.
Proposed changes spurred by the report include a plan by MJC to launch a phlebotomy course and an effort by the College of the Sequoias in Visalia to secure funding for a physical therapy program, Marquez said.
Bee staff writer Christina Salerno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 238-4574.