With the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, businesses shut down. With time, across states, some of those businesses re-opened only to shut down again when surges in the virus hit.

Among the workers who are feeling the brunt of businesses closing are those in restaurants, bars, hospitality, and tourism.

Research from the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank’s Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity finds that employment in the health care industry might be a solution for service workers.

Transitioning from Hospitality to Health Care Occupations says, “Using data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network (O*NET) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), we identify health care jobs that would likely be obtainable by workers at entry, mid-, and advanced levels of both pay and skills.”

The research acknowledges that service workers may need to find new employment quickly and are not currently able to take the time to participate in training. Some health care jobs would require the learning of little to no new skills. Work experience in the service sector is transferable to new opportunities in health care.

  • Entry-level: Dishwasher, housekeeper, maid can transition to home health aide. Other possible positions include physical therapist aide and medical equipment preparer.
  • Mid-level: Host, hostess, hotel desk clerk can transition to medical secretary. Other possible positions include medical transcriptionist and nursing assistant.
  • Advanced-level: Food service, lodging manager can transition to medical assistant. Other possible positions include medical appliance technician and pharmacy technician.

The findings state, “We believe that all three occupations offer clear pathways to service workers toward immediate employment with the potential for long-term advancement and greater earnings.”

The research breaks down where there is industry overlap in skills, as well as skills that service workers might be missing. However, its is presumed that even though a dishwasher is not using email at a restaurant job, he or she knows how to use email. And if not, can easily learn how to use the tool.

Gaining a foothold in health care can provide the financial relief that a displaced service worker needs immediately, while possibly providing a pathway in a new sector.

The research makes some recommendations, including “increased collaboration between workforce development agencies, industry leaders, professional associations, and policymakers in order to create a picture of health care demand and employment requirements that reflects regional differences.”

It continues, “we propose the allocation of funds for short-term training programs that would provide access to a wider range of health care occupations.”

The findings also suggest a clearer understanding of health care jobs for those looking to make the transition into the field. “We recommend developing a crosswalk between baseline skills and workplace activities along with more detailed descriptions of technical skill requirements and the potential for workers to learn them on the job.” Offering this view will “require collaboration between professional associations, workforce development agencies, training providers, funders, and employers.”

The research indicates an understanding of an employer’s needs will lead to more skills-based hiring. “Designing jobs, and job descriptions, in a way that highlights fundamental components employers seek from their incumbent workforce and future talent allows for easier transition of skills in a promotional path and in transitional career moves from one industry to the next.”

“This increased flexibility will be crucial to assisting populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic.”

Sarah Miller, senior adviser and Pearse Haley, research analyst I, both at the Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity, are the authors of Transitioning from Hospitality to Health Care Occupations.

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