More than two-thirds of Idaho occupational licenses had expired by the end of 2022, according to the Idaho Department of Occupational Licensing.
Those licenses are issued by the Idaho State Board of Licensure, which licenses licensed professionals and occupational therapists.
The state issued a total of 2,938 licenses in the past year, and it expects to issue an additional 6,000 licenses by 2022, department spokesman Mike Ehrman said.
Ehrmann said the number of licenses issued in the state had been declining since 2016.
He said the department expects that number to increase significantly over the next year as more people move into the state.
The licenses are required to work in the Idaho area, but Ehrmehman said the licensing authority had decided to expand its work in other parts of the state as well.
“That’s going to be a big, big challenge,” he said.
The number of licensed professions and therapists declined in the last fiscal year from 4,839 in fiscal 2015 to 3,769 in fiscal 2018, according a 2016 report from the state’s occupational licensing board.
The board had expected the number to decline further, but the number actually decreased by 4.5 percent, to 1,812.
The most recent report shows the number is down even further.
The report showed the number declined to 884 in fiscal 2017, a decrease of 12.9 percent from the year before.
The increase in licenses came on the heels of an increase in licensing applications, with a 4.3 percent increase in 2017.
Echols said he expects that the license numbers will continue to drop.
He pointed to the lack of a job for occupational therapists, a position that has remained relatively stable throughout the recession.
“It’s really hard to find a job, and that’s the issue that we’re facing,” he told The Associated Press.
“We’ve lost our skilled workforce.
We’ve lost people who work with the elderly, who have disabilities.
They’ve lost the ability to take care of their elderly loved ones.”
Echolls said there are some people in the profession who still have jobs.
“There’s an abundance of them, and they’re willing to take a chance,” he noted.
The licensing authority has set aside about $6.6 million to expand and add positions.
Eichols said the increase in applicants for licenses has been positive.
The Idaho Department for Occupational Safety and Health issued another report in March that showed occupational therapy has seen an uptick in applications.
The department found that occupational therapy, which includes occupational therapy assistants, certified occupational therapists and licensed occupational therapists who practice in a health care setting, has seen a 25.8 percent increase since the end the fiscal year.
The total number of occupational licenses has remained steady at 1,631, with the department expecting to issue another 4,000 by the time 2021 comes around.
Ephrsons said the state is trying to make sure the population continues to grow.
“The key to that is to continue to educate people on what they’re doing, how they’re working and what they need to do to stay on the road to being a licensed professional and to have the best experience in their profession,” he added.