State Language Access Initiatives Are Helping to Serve an Increasingly Diverse Workforce and Aging Population – PHI

Immigrants have long been critical to the direct care workforce and to ensure older adults and people with disabilities receive quality care; in fact, at least 27 percent of our country’s direct care workers are immigrants (up from 21 percent in 2011). The importance of immigrant direct care workers to meeting our country’s long-term care needs and ensuring the quality of that care will only grow as the long-term care sector struggles to fill an estimated 9.3 million direct care job openings in the next decade and an increasingly diverse population of older adults requires culturally competent and language-appropriate care.  

Most immigrant direct care workers are fluent or native English speakers: 56 percent report speaking English “well” or “very well,” and 19 percent report speaking only English. However, many have limited English proficiency and may struggle with English-only training and exams: 25 percent report that speaking English is “not well” or “not at all.”  In addition, many direct care workers serve populations that primarily speak non-English languages themselves—something that will likely become more common as our nation’s aging population becomes more diverse.  

As a result, some potential direct care workers are left out of the workforce because they cannot access training or certification in their preferred language. This can be true even in cases where workers already have substantial healthcare work experience in their home country. Language barriers to training and certification not only deprive states of essential workers amid a nationwide crisis but also mean fewer older adults and people with disabilities receive the culturally and linguistically appropriate care they need.  

Recognizing the situation, several states have moved to expand language access to direct care workers, reducing language barriers to joining the workforce for people who might struggle with English-only training and certification, including many immigrants.

Wisconsin is Translating its Free Online Homecare Training

In March, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services unveiled a Spanish version of their online training and exam for certified direct care professionals (CDCPs), called WisCaregiver Careers. We have covered WisCaregiver Careers before because of its innovative structure and incentive programs that are helping to attract more people to the direct care workforce. The expansion of the program with a new Spanish-language training and certification exam is an important step in ensuring the state meets its workforce needs while also providing inclusive, empathetic care for Spanish and English speakers. It also empowers Spanish-speaking workers to start their career in direct care work as a CDCP, opening the door to working in other settings or a career path into nursing. The state is now looking to translate the program into additional languages. 

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Source: State Language Access Initiatives Are Helping to Serve an Increasingly Diverse Workforce and Aging Population – PHI

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