A Professional Workforce

May 18, 2016
Posted By: admin

By Mike Hyland, President and CEO

There are many adjectives that apply to the people providing direct care throughout the human services industry. Caring, reliable, creative, compassionate, dedicated. Each of those words is a fitting description of the many people in our field who apply their considerable skill and talents to keep people safe. Unfortunately, there is another word that describes this group of professionals: underpaid.

It’s certainly no secret that people who work in the direct care part of social services don’t make a lot of money doing so. But why is that? Why has society allowed that to be okay? It’s actually puzzling because the work that these people do is an economic win for everyone. Without professionals working in community-based settings the people they support would be back in vastly more expensive institutions – institutions that are built and maintained by tax dollars. Without professionals working in community-based settings the people they support would be at greater risk of medical and psychiatric hospitalizations, also a very expensive bill. And what of the human element? It is through the work of these professional service providers that people who need help can be engaged in communities, keep a paying job, and grow in challenging directions. These things happen because direct support professionals have the skills to create the safety nets that allow those they help to achieve as much as they can. So why has society undervalued the contributions and economic importance of these professionals for so long?

Teachers spent generations in the same predicament. Everyone quietly understood that teachers were doing work that most of us can’t and that they were providing a valuable service to society. Yet, although there is still a long way to go to recognize all teachers in our country, there has been progress. Per the Boston Business Journal, the median teacher salary in Massachusetts was just under $70,000 in 2013. That was more than $20 per hour higher than the wages paid to people working in direct service jobs in human service organizations in Massachusetts. It is clearly time that society begins to value the work done by this class of professionals. They work under trying conditions with enormous responsibilities and they deserve to be compensated for that, just as teachers should. We as a culture are finally realizing in economic terms the amazing work being done in the field of public education and we are realizing that this work is the result of a talented and dedicated group of professionals. We now need to start doing the very same for the talented and dedicated professionals who use their skills to help people every day. They too are doing work that can be done by only a small percentage of professionals in our society.

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