James M. Berklan

Liable to get lost among today’s other exciting news, is a story that can make long-term care workforces better in every way. Don’t let it pass you by.

The tumblers are in place to make long-term care leadership a much more respected class (pun intended). Now, however, is time for the all-important follow-through.

Plans for “Vision 2025: University and Senior Housing and Care Symposium” have been announced and this literal who’s who of academia and professional education deserves a serious look.

While it might be an optimistic number of years to get this done — 6 — it’s also a significant number because it’s also the approximate count of healthy degree programs that currently exist.

There are more than 15,000 skilled nursing facilities and more than 30,000 assisted living facilities in the U.S., and there are fewer than 10 programs to create degreed facility leaders? What an embarrassment. The fact that symposium organizers are hoping for 25 degree programs overall in six years is laudable and ambitious. But it’s also sad that things have come to this.

Go ahead and try to name a top LTC degree program in Florida — you know, that state with more elderly people than you can shake a walking stick at. It’s a trick request because … there are are no such programs. And it’s not alone as a state in serious need.

But now the profession has the attention of various university leaders. They are the first key here. About 60 representatives will be at the June 19-20 symposium.

Business people themselves, all the educators want to know is that there will be a job market for their students. That’s where providers come into play. At last report, about 50 of them will attend the summit — and hopefully commit to offering students practical experience and paid internships.

Why aren’t there hundreds or thousands of providers willingly jumping on this? Sure, there’s some up-front investment, but by all accounts, college-aged students give you your money’s worth, especially as interns.

Paying the tuition bill for such a future administrator or executive director would be worth it. The costs of defending a lawsuit because of a shoddy administrator or paying to fill frequent administrator vacancies could easily cost much more.

What’s the associations’ role? Improving the profession’s image, offering support and vocational training, and otherwise assisting their members.

In other words, these groups form a circle that never stops.

Of course, creating better educated leaders may very well mean higher wages, which owners and operators may be loathe to pay. But, again, the winning argument would be: What’s less expensive: The cost of some college classes or the price of defending, and, of course, possibly not winning a lawsuit? Filling job vacancies and then retaining quality employees also gets expensive, especially when it’s done repeatedly.

So my hat is off to the providers, academics and associations seeking to improve the profession’s knowledge base — and reputation. They all deserve to graduate with honors.

Follow Editor James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.