A “historic” group of aging services professionals concluded two days of meetings with university professionals Thursday in Chicago, and the resulting buzz left participants eager for the next steps.

The goal of the Vision 2025 Symposium was to help develop 25 “robust” college-based programs that will offer senior services management training and also produce 1,000 paid internships for potential future leaders to sample the profession among potential employers.

The charge is to get the above in place by 2025. Currently, event organizers point out, only a handful of college programs are dedicated to long-term care, assisted living and related management education. They produce nowhere near the 1,000 opportunities targeted.

Count Argentum President and CEO James Balda, a presenter and one of just 130 invited guests, as “totally” on board. He and representatives of six other “core” aging services associations spoke on a panel Thursday morning.

“Providers want the associations to collaborate, and I think it will be a clear mandate to us to do so,” Balda told McKnight’s Senior Living between sessions. “We have been working together, but establishing core competencies for being an administrator or executive director — whatever you want to call it — is a great idea. That gives the universities something to target.”

With more than 30 universities and about as many assisted living and long-term care operators represented, lessons were learned on all sides. Invaluable relationships were formed, which organizers say is vital to the effort.

“I plan to go to the Argentum membership in support of the 2025 goals,” Balda said. “We’ll commit to them and go to members to commit to ‘X’ number of internships and positions. At the end of the day, the providers and universities will build the programs, but we can be a conduit. Associations are conveners.”

Other groups represented on the “endorsing organizations / associations” panel were the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, LeadingAge, the American College of Health Care Administrators, the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, the American Seniors Housing Association and the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards Foundation (NAB Foundation).

After listening to perspectives from association, provider and educator panels, participants concluded the symposium by voting on key strategies to pursue. The clear leader was the creation of paid internships, followed by a campaign to create rebranding and positive language to produce better “optics” for the senior housing and care sector.

Other top needs, as voted by attendees: the design of career paths, investment in educational programs (via grants, foundations, etc.), collaboration among stakeholders, and increasing the exposure that younger and second-career students have to the industry.

A summary report and blueprint for next steps is expected to be completed by mid-summer, said symposium leader Douglas M. Olson, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and director of its Center for Health Administration and Aging Services Excellence (CHAASE) program.

Vision 2025 was sponsored by the participating associations and specialty bank Ziegler, which hosted the event.

Jim Berklan is the editor of the sister media brand to McKnight’s Senior Living, which is McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.