For some time now, experts in the physical, occupational, and speech therapy industries have stressed that well-trained professionals would soon be needed to help broaden the availability of all these kinds of treatments. Over the next few decades, millions of Americans will age into their 60s and beyond, and may therefore need more care of this type. But already, it seems that occupational therapists in particular are quite in-demand.
Last year, there were 167 different kinds of jobs for which there was a critical lack of trained workers nationwide, and those in the therapy industry were often at or near the top of the list, according to the latest quarterly Skills Gap Index from the American Staffing Association. Topping that list was occupational therapists, of whom there are apparently not enough these days to meet the high demand that is also quite likely to grow moving forward. No. 4 on the list, meanwhile, was occupational therapy assistants.
"The ASA Skills Gap Index identifies areas of focus for use in the development of strategies to address the skills shortage in America," said Richard Wahlquist, ASA president and chief executive officer. "These data are an important resource for staffing firms as they partner with clients to source qualified talent and implement effective workforce solutions strategies."
What does this mean?
The ASA's Skills Gap Index looks at a number of factors to determine just how many workers may be required to fill vacant roles across the country, the report said. On a scale of 1 to 100, the index rates how difficult it is for companies to fill open positions, how much demand there is, how many active job seekers there are, and how many people work in the field overall. And those fields on the list currently have a demand of at least 2,000 open jobs, but usually far more.
To round out the top five, others outside the therapy sector that have heavy demand for workers are truck drivers at No. 2, psychiatrists at No. 3, and photographic process workers and processing machine operators at No. 5, the report said. Further, in the Nos. 8-10 slots were forest and conservation technicians; general internists; and merchandise display makers and window trimmers, respectively.
What else is needed in the therapy industry?
That, though, leaves spots Nos. 6 and 7 open on the top 10 list, and they are filled by two vital jobs in the therapy industry, the report said. Coming in at No. 6 was physical therapists, while speech-language pathologists were one spot lower.
This data serves to highlight just how much need there is in the physical, speech, and - especially - occupational therapy fields already, slightly ahead of the expected boom in demand. This means that, unless colleges and universities across the country start doing a little more to boost access to proper training in the field, the gap in need versus availability will probably only widen in the next several years and beyond.