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Megan Robinson
Project director, Apprenticeships and workforce development, Argentum

The Healthcare Apprenticeship Expansion Program (HAEP) has met a major milestone by enrolling 1,211 participants in the first year of the grant. Argentum is the lead applicant and fiscal agent for the $6 million project, which is being funded by a four-year U.S. Department of Labor—Employment and Training Administration Closing the Skills Gap grant.

The HAEP collaborative is addressing the skills gap in health care and health care IT occupations by expanding apprenticeship pathways for positions including CNAs, LPNs, RNs, and rehab technicians. In addition, it is creating new apprenticeship programs for health care leadership positions such as nursing directors and executive directors. Argentum and its partners plan to enroll and support over 7,200 apprentices by February 2024.

Meeting this enrollment milestone did not come without challenges—especially during the pandemic, when attracting and retaining health care talent faced significant hurdles.

However, several HAEP employer partners successfully framed the apprenticeship model as an innovative way to reward and recognize the many employees who demonstrated such remarkable dedication and commitment to their residents and families during the pandemic.

“For years, Signature HealthCARE has leveraged apprentice-modeled programs to develop leaders and encourage direct caregivers to continue their growth and development. We know that these programs add value to the individual, the organization, and the residents we serve, through improved skills and increased retention,” says Victoria Alexander-Carney, vice president of learning and development with Signature HealthCARE.

A Welcome Incentive

Employers have leveraged several hallmarks of a registered apprenticeship model to recruit new employees, retain existing workforce, and incentivize and reward employees: on-the-job training, support from a trained mentor, and guaranteed wage increases that lead to a recognized credential. Nearly 30 percent of HAEP apprentices are incumbent workers and 85 percent of HAEP apprentices stayed in the program during the first year.

While apprenticeship models offer many benefits to employers, there are additional benefits embedded in the program. For example, HAEP apprentices have access to support services provided by Family Scholar House (FSH), a key partner in the project.

FSH coaches are available to help apprentices navigate challenges such as access to childcare and basic needs, as well as career coaching and life skills training. Employees may be hesitant to talk to a supervisor about external challenges that may prevent them from being successful at work. Having a trusted advisor and coach with FSH ensures HAEP apprentices have an additional safety net.

Supportive services

TalentGro, a division of Hamilton-Ryker®, is a total workforce development solution that helps find and cultivate talent for employers; it serves as the apprenticeship intermediary to help HAEP employers launch and sustain their programs.

Hamilton-Ryker’s TalentGro division has been instrumental in providing a menu of services to HAEP employers including those to help launch their programs, recruit apprentices, gain supportive mentors, and adhere to federal reporting requirements.

“We are excited for our employer partners that have embraced the HAEP program, as it means they have the backing and resources to bring their workforce goals of building career pathways and improve retention to fruition,” COO Shari Franey says.

Looking toward the future

Argentum has officially onboarded 10 employer partners into the HAEP collaborative and anticipates welcoming more over the next year. The current cohort is eligible to receive training reimbursements to cover a portion of apprentice training costs, which have been primarily focused on training caregivers, certified nursing assistants and licensed professional nurses. Additional benefits are available to employers designated as small businesses, which is defined by the funding sources as having 50 or fewer employees.

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