APSCU forges way to fill increasing demand for nurses

Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) President Steve Gunderson is preparing to submit a white paper predicting the need and demand for private-sector colleges as there becomes a greater demand for middle-skilled job in various industries.

One of the industries with the greatest demand, which will only get greater, is nursing.

“Private-sector colleges will be positioned to serve a growing demand,” Noah Black, vice president of public affairs at APSCU, recently told Higher Ed Tribune. “We are aware that both demographics and an increase in demand for postsecondary occupational skills define the sector’s future.”

Despite the private sector’s growing ability to provide education to help fill a much-needed demand for middle-skilled workers, Black explained that opponents still see private-sector colleges “as a group of bad actors, using outdated data and anecdotes to demonize it. The reality is very different. The sector is much smaller, pulls less financial aid, and has lowered tuition and defaults.”

Black offered statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which reported that 7.9 million Americans are unemployed, while at the same time 5.4 million jobs remain unfilled.

“This crisis exists because employers demand ‘job ready’ employees and prospective employees are simply not able to bridge the skills gap without appropriate education and training,” he said.

Black said that APSCU looks at one of the fastest-growing sectors of the American economy: health care. He explained that the BLS projects health care and health care support occupations are projected to be the two fastest-growing occupational between now and 2024, with a combined increase of 2.3 million in employment, representing about one in four new jobs, with a large demand for medical assistants, licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses.

“The numbers show that there will be a 29 percent increase in medical assistants, 22 percent increase in LPN/LVNs, and a 19 percent increase in RNs [registered nurses],” Black said. As the demand for care increases with America's aging population, this problem will only get worse."

Private-sector colleges are prepared to address these gaps more effectively compared to public and non-profit schools, Black said.

“The sector has a continued focus on serving those most in need of additional access and opportunity – today’s ‘New Traditional’ college students. But, as we move away from the recession, it is this sector which shows an actual decrease in costs.”

APSCU has created an initiative called "SOS: Shortage of Skills" with a focus on occupations where there is an emerging demand – and in some cases projected shortages. Black said this disparity suggests a real need for more trained, skilled workers in the health care industry.

“These numbers give credence to the projections for an actual increase in postsecondary career education, and the private sector is in the best position to support this growth of middle-skilled workers,” he said.

APSCU is a membership organization of accredited institutions of higher education that provide postsecondary education with a career focus. Its work supports thousands of campuses that educate millions of students.