Soaring student debt, stagnating wages and a dubious job market are producing a generation of young people receptive to the cooperative business model, said Thomas Showalter, director of the National Youth Employment Coalition, an organization that serves more than 6 million Millennials who are out of school and out of work in the U.S.
“Young people are looking for very tangible pathways forward, and that’s something I think the home care cooperative sector is better prepared to offer than most industries,” Showalter told attendees of the inaugural Home Care Cooperatives Conference, organized by the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF) and held in Dulles, Virginia this fall.
Fewer and fewer young people are buying into the notion that a traditional four-year degree automatically leads to a high-paying job, Showalter said. “One thing that’s very important for Millennials—and that I think you can provide—is an immediate sense of quickly getting into a paying job and building those meaningful human connections.”
While entry-level jobs within the home care cooperative sector may not pay tremendously, they do pay competitively, Showalter said, not to mention the work is much more rewarding than many minimum-wage jobs. “Home care is very powerful and compelling work, and that is something research shows that Millennials are really looking for more than previous generations,” he added.
Another benefit to home care is that the industry hinges on strong customer service, interpersonal and communication skills that are in demand across all sectors of the economy, Showalter said. The sector also offers many opportunities to start small businesses.
“Young people today are more than any previous generation really interested in entrepreneurship and owning their own businesses. One thing we see across the economy is that as wages stagnate, entrepreneurship is one of the best ways for young people to experience wage growth,” he said.
Becoming an entrepreneur within the home care industry only becomes a reality when professional development opportunities and a pathway to advancement are prioritized, said Jodi Sturgeon, president of the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI). It’s no surprise, then, that training is a cornerstone of recruitment and retention efforts within the industry.
For Bronx-based Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA), the nation’s largest worker co-op, PHI’s training approach provides double the 75 hours of training required of home care workers by the state of New York.
Financial literacy training is an integral part of training, Sturgeon said. “Seventy-five percent of people who enter our training do not have a bank account,” she said. “Conversely, 80 percent of cooperative employees—once they learn about budgeting, credit recovery and 401K plans—have direct deposit, so that’s a really key piece for these workers.”
Another important element to retention is real life examples of career advancement, such as senior aids—a salaried, full-time position within the industry.
“Some of the anecdotal evidence that we have indicates that of the home care aids we have supporting the senior aid in the home, at least a handful say, ‘Well, if she can be a senior aid, then I could be a senior aid.’ So there’s that vision of an advancement opportunity,” Sturgeon said.
“If you want to create a culture of retention, you really need to work with the entire organization in mind,” she added. “Every level should participate in decision-making.”
Watch the full Recruitment and Retention Session at the inaugural Home Care Cooperatives Conference below.