Healthcare jobs exploding in Tampa Bay

Local colleges struggle to keep up with demand

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Too many jobs, not enough workers. Right now, Tampa Bay is seeing a massive demand for healthcare workers and local colleges are struggling to graduate enough people to meet the demand. 

From cleanings to x-rays, the students at St. Petersburg college’s dental hygiene program stay busy. They’ve got to learn quick. Within two years, they’ll be working in a doctor’s office. 

“We put all this time and money into this field so it’s like when you get out there you hit the ground running,” explained Angela Motta, a first year student and mom who decided to go back to school. “My mom asked me years ago what I wanted to do when I grew up and she said there were always dental hygiene jobs in the newspaper. So here I am,” she exclaimed.

Soon, they’ll be even more postings. Jobs in nursing, emergency medical services and dentistry are exploding and they’re expected to keep growing. So much so, that St. Pete College can barely keep up. 

Eric Carver, the Health Education Provost explained, “We along with other schools are having trouble keeping up with the demand. The average age of a nurse is 50 in the US and they estimate by 2020, they'll be more than a million openings for nurses. We're seeing massive growth in nearly every health care field.”

Craver is working to secure more funding to expand the school and the number of openings. They often have to turn students away because they don't have enough space. 

Since the training for the health careers takes half as much time as typical 4-year degrees, the programs are incredibly popular.

EMT student Cameron Mayorga barely snagged a spot. “My classes are completely full. They had to turn some kids away because there were so many applying.”

Still, St Pete College is hosting an open house Monday night to get more students interested in health care fields. They know the value of turning out students to fill the much needed career vacancies. Many of the jobs pay well too. The average salary for a dental hygienist in Tampa Bay after graduating from a 2-year program is $65,000, according to St. Pete College staff.

Carver will travel to Tallahassee this week to try to secure more state funding for an expansion to the college's programs. 

While the number of health care jobs expands nationwide, a recent student found Tampa Bay is the fifth best place for health care profession careers with an astonishing 33,398 openings. Only Atlanta (34,492), Boston (38,101), Los Angeles (42,961) and No. 1 New York (43,879) had more health care openings.  

ABC Action News called around to several other schools in Tampa Bay and they all tell us they’re also struggling to graduate enough students to fill the number of jobs. 

St. Pete College's open house will be from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, March 20 at the Health Education Center's lobby at 7200 66th Street in Pinellas Park. 

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