Sramana Mitra: What do you think is going to happen? We are, on the one hand, over 30 million people in America that are unemployed. This could go up. At some point, it will come down. For the foreseeable future, there’s going to be tremendous unemployment in the system.
Then there are certain segments and sectors in the economy that are getting absolutely massacred. Retail is getting massacred. Restaurants are getting massacred In fact, a lot of women are losing their jobs. Do you foresee that there is going to be a retraining of this workforce into clinical workers?
David Coppins: I would hope so. There is certainly a strong demand. The only problem is that they’re not well paid. A typical clinical nurse assistant (CNA) in the US is making about $13 to $15 an hour. These are people that have gone through training courses and have done their clinical rounds, but they’re not well paid.
If you look at the makeup of a typical nursing home, nurse aides makes up about two-thirds of the total clinical staff of a nursing home. What has been discovered more openly during the COVID crisis is that these people are thinking, “I’m taking a huge risk by working in these facilities.” They don’t want to work for that pay at that risk.
A good 25% to 35% of the CNA workforce have just decided to opt out. This has massively exacerbated an already difficult scenario not only because of the risk but also because of the unintended consequence of the generous Cares Act. You can make more money sitting on the sidelines than working in the nursing home as a CNA.
Start with the fact that we already have lost a large percentage of the CNA population. You have the general managers of the whole facility doing CNA work. You’ve got cafeteria workers coming in. Agencies and other staffing firms have high demand coming from these facilities.
I don’t know if all those that are unemployed would be retrained unless there is a wholesale change in the way that these workers are compensated and viewed.
Sramana Mitra: How does $13 an hour compare with retail?
David Coppins: Most of the time, we see that you can make about the same or more working at Target in various locations. The $14 to $15 are the rates in the higher cost of living areas but some of our lower cost of living areas like Florida are getting paid $11 an hour.
You can tell that Target would be willing to pay that much for workers. You may be able to retrain some of them and move them in, but that depends on how long the workforce is out of unemployment.
Sramana Mitra: There’s a very large number of retail jobs that are just not coming back.
David Coppins: I agree with you.
Sramana Mitra: A very large percentage of this population are women and they could naturally move into nursing and care kind of jobs. You’re telling me that there is a very large shortage in that area. Market economics should drive from one direction to another provided proper training can be arranged.
Of course, you’re making a very strong and important point about the risk factor versus the pay. This is across the board. Even in a grocery store, it’s a very risky situation. Warehouses are also a very risky situation. Even factories are troublesome. People are not just going to sit on the sidelines and collect pay. That’s not going to be available.
That kind of relief is not going to be available. People will have to go back to work. What’s encouraging about the story you’re telling is, there is actually a shortage and requirement provided they can be retrained, and the pay can be rationalized to some extent.
David Coppins: Yes. Even if a lot of retail jobs don’t return, there is a place for them in the economy.