Economics / Guest posts / Health / Jobs

Apprenticeships aren’t just for the building trades anymore

Cheryl Feldman, executive director of the District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund, explains how apprenticeships can be a boon for the healthcare industry.

Apprenticeships provide on-the-job training for future STEM workers. (Photo by Flickr user COD Newsroom, used under a Creative Commons license)
This guest post is part of Grow PA, a reported series on economic development across 10 Pennsylvania counties underwritten by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. Sign up for our weekly curated email here.

When Amber Burney crossed the stage at the recent graduation and achievement ceremony hosted by Philadelphia’s District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund, she was more than a celebrant. She, along with 69 other students, is part of the state’s plan to create a more robust economy by using registered apprenticeships in non-traditional industries.

Long-known as an effective recruitment practice in the building trades, the apprenticeship model is now being applied to the healthcare industry, and it’s yielding promising results.

This year, about 80 individuals were recognized for completing apprenticeship programs that placed them directly into full-time positions, including six community health workers, 15 direct support professionals, 15 direct support professionals and over 30 home health and nursing aides.

Not to mention the 30-some apprentices who landed jobs in early childhood education.

Here’s how it works: Registered apprenticeships are employer-sponsored programs that include mentored, on-the-job learning, resulting in an industry-recognized credential for the employee. The pay is a portion of a journeyman’s salary, with salary increases linked to increases in skill.

Since its start in 1974, the 1199C Training Fund has always pushed to connect low-income residents to career pathways in healthcare and human services. However, training programs historically have not been tied to a guaranteed job for the participant upon completion. Apprenticeships have flipped this traditional training model. Instead, participants first have a job and then they train to the specifications of the employer.

It is truly a game-changer for the healthcare industry.

Amber Burney and her classmates are part of the first graduating class of young adults pursuing a Direct Support Service Professional (DSP) pre-apprenticeship. Many will ultimately find jobs with behavioral health organizations. The graduation earlier this month represented their completion of the pre-apprenticeship phase of their program – their first rung on the ladder.

The DSP pre-apprenticeship program is unique in that it has been vetted by employers, meaning the students have the foundational skills that the sponsoring businesses require. The program curriculum emphasizes industry exposure, work-based learning, and contextualized content to help participants build and demonstrate DSP job competencies prior to taking a job.

We have also been able to work with youth who have experienced some trauma in their own lives and support them in accessing a meaningful career path.

Students like Amber who successfully complete the pre-apprenticeship DSP program will connect to full-time DSP Registered Apprenticeship programs with employers, including JEVS Human Services, SPIN, Community Behavioral Health and Philadelphia Mental Health Care Corporation.

Apprentices receive on-the-job learning from assigned mentors at each employer and 332 hours of behavioral health coursework from the 1199C Training Fund and Philadelphia University, which will result in 24 college credits at the completion of the Registered Apprenticeship program.

Registered apprenticeships make real sense for employers, too, and our legislators agree. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry was recently awarded $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Labor to fund its Apprenticeship initiative, and Gov. Tom Wolf has included an apprenticeship grant program in his 2017-18 budget, which could potentially result in even more opportunities for growth.

I encourage all healthcare employers to join the growing tide of businesses that are using apprenticeships to on-board and train the next generation of dedicated employees. The economic development of our Commonwealth depends on programs like these to provide real opportunities for good-paying jobs with career advancement opportunities for all of our residents.


Series: Grow PA

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