Bringing more than 7,000 apprentices into key occupations in senior living is an ambitious goal—and, with the right partners and program design, an achievable one.
With the help of a nearly $6 million, four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, awarded following a national competitive process, Argentum has launched the Healthcare Apprenticeship Expansion Program (HAEP).
Designed to dramatically expand workforce development in the senior living industry, HAEP brings together senior living operators, universities, nonprofit organizations, workforce agencies, and other partners including select hospital systems and allied health providers.
Managing HAEP is Megan Robinson, Argentum project manager of workforce development and apprenticeships. Her professional roots are embedded in career readiness and workforce development, with positions including university career counseling, often for first-generation students; and managing a Department of Labor grant to build a talent pipeline for careers in warehousing and distribution.
In this conversation, she and Brent Weil, vice president, workforce development, give a look at the need for HAEP, how it’s different from other programs, and what’s ahead.
ROBINSON: Apprenticeships are a win-win. For the employee, a career path is clearly outlined; they’ll know the types of wage increases and promotions they can earn, and they get on-the-job training.
For the employer, it’s also beneficial: They get to train employees to a skill set that’s exactly what they need for their organization.
WEIL: Many of these are things that senior living providers are doing already. The apprenticeship formalizes and structures them, so employees understand every step toward building a long-term career pathway.
ROBINSON: One thing that’s resonated for me, as we’ve talked with employers, is the issue of turnover. Apprenticeship models speak to this—while employees are training, they’re increasing their buy-in to the organization. Turnover really decreases when apprenticeship models are in place.
WEIL: It’s become clear that retention of our workers is critical to our continued competitiveness. Apprenticeship is a way to show our team members that they’re valued, that we see their ability to grow as far as they want to. And for us to lay out that path with them makes them equal owners of their careers.
We built it to be flexible. We know each provider is different and has its own training protocols, and we’re taking account of that. Ultimately, we have much more in common than we have differences.
One aspect of this program is it provides a lot of support. For the employers, there’s help with navigating the federal processes such as reporting. We’ve heard that this is something providers have long been interested in, but they didn’t have the bandwidth to take on some of those functions. We also will be funding a portion of eligible training costs for apprentices.
ROBINSON: There’s also support for employees. We’re working with an organization, Family Scholar House, which is providing wraparound supports and case management—including $600,000 in emergency assistance payments, in case an apprentice is having trouble with transportation, childcare, or basic needs. This addresses retention as well. According to a study by Activated Insights and Great Place to Work last year, two highly significant factors in employee retention were their personal caregiving needs, such as for their own parents or children, and their commuting conditions. Employers who addressed those issues were able to reduce their turnover. That improves quality and saves them money.
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