There is a direct association between the so-called “skills void” we hear so much around in the economy and my fondness for connecting people from the younger ages with the kind of meaningful work that will permit them to create their perfect lifestyle.
It’s my mission is to help teachers, employers, and economic developers reframe how they bond and engage with young people, to show them many paths they can pursue their passions and causes that simultaneously allow us to cross those employment voids.
One sector that embraces young people with open arms is healthcare. As we recuperate from the pandemic, we must grow our country’s public health workforce to help build a more resilient tomorrow. We also need a diverse number of employees of public health experts who reflect the communities in which they perform.
I’m enthusiastic about Public Health AmeriCorps (PHA), a new collaboration between AmeriCorps and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), whose purpose is to recruit and train the coming generation of public health authorities.
“While young people encountered many missed opportunities, dreams, and milestones owing to the COVID 19 pandemic, they have responded with strength and demonstrated a renewed interest in supporting the public health field as we recover from COVID-19,” states AJ Pearlman, Director of PHA.
To commemorate National Public Health Week, I emailed Pearlman to speak about the need to recruit more young people into the healthcare area and why that effort transforms into a win-win for everyone—particularly when it connects communities in requirement with young people’s passions.
In the last few decades, there has been a significant uptick in the number of pupils pursuing undergraduate public health majors, according to recent research from Johns Hopkins University, the University of Minnesota, and the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health. That amount has skyrocketed by more than 1,100% in the years 2001 and 2020.
That is fantastic news—but it’s also not enough to meet the demand for public healthcare employees now and into tomorrow.
The public health force is severely understaffed across the country—which means we require more people, especially young people, to regard careers in this field to address critical community needs. A recent study by Territorial Health Officials and the de Beaumont Foundation and the Association of State discovered that state and local health departments must hire 80,000 more people to supply core public health services sufficiently.
To achieve those goals, we must rethink how we inspire young individuals to pursue their career objectives.
Above the degree
In order to cross this growing public healthcare gap, we must explore methods to give young people the skills and experience they require beyond a traditional college course.
I’ve encountered so many young people in my work who just aren’t ready or curious to pursue a 4-year degree in the medical field—particularly when it comes to financing it.
Through programs like PHA, young individuals can access skill-building possibilities beyond the traditional higher education route.
“We do this by delivering hands-on experience and training in the arena of public health to young individuals while they complete a year of service—during which they are disbursed and receive extra money that can be used to further enhance their education,” states Pearlman, noting that her organization is recruiting thousands of young adults pan-America to gain firsthand experience in public health professions.
Pearlman sounds that by participating in programs like PHA, young people acquire the opportunity to tackle today’s most pressing public health issues—like health equity, mental health and substance use illnesses, COVID-19, and more. Members also acquire professional development options, a living allowance, institute or trade school money, student loan deferment, interest toleration, and other benefits.
“Through this example we believe more young people from all backdrops will be able to access a career in public health,” declares Pearlman.
Creating a distinction
One of the biggest attractions to young people in following a career in public healthcare is the chance to make a difference. And few fields offer the opportunity to make such an effect as when you can help someone in demand.
For instance, Pearlman shared that PHA members serving with Arizona State University are prepared to work with survivors of domestic and sexual brutality and are placed in local health departments nationwide to create capacity for victim support.
The associates at Latin American Youth Center in Washington, D.C., are providing health screenings where some communities face barriers to teaching.
In Colorado, associates serve with Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and perform screenings for youth toiling with substance use to prevent addiction and related health effects, disease, accidents, and wounds.
Other public health programs affecting young people include implementing a broad garden-to-table program in North Carolina to teach women veterans how to grow their produce in communities at stake for food insecurity. And in Wisconsin, 30 PHA associates serve as recovery coaches to tackle the devastating addictive consequences of prescription drugs, opioids, and other substances throughout the state.
“Americans have an interest in many of the social reasons that are directly linked to public health consequences, and we’re helping them to identify those relationships and reimagine systems that reinforce inequity,” tells Pearlman.
A dignified call to help
Selecting a career in public health is a calling, and it is a noble act of courtesy on the part of the person drawn to help others and make an unremitting difference in someone else’s life.
“Service permits individuals to turn their determination, compassion, and imagination into practical solutions for communities,” states Pearlman.
For numerous people from the younger generations, this is what the light at the end of the tunnel glimpses like, that motivational force that propels them to comprehend new skills and seek new experiences in search of the difference-making lifestyle they dream around.
When young people are enlightened and motivated like that, they’re unstoppable. And the more we can apprise them about how that makes a difference in a domain like healthcare that brushes all of us, the more our future will look very promising.