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Creating New Employment Opportunities through Health Care Apprenticeship

December 22, 2016

As the number of older Americans increases, worker shortages loom nationwide in agriculture, health care, manufacturing, technology and customer service. What will the impact of these shortages be as more people reach their 80s, 90s and beyond?

The number of older adults in our communities is steadily increasing, according to the U. S. Census. Those who are age 75 and older will make up 9% of our population (at 33 million) by 2030. Soon there will be more older adults than children.

While the average 75-year-old suffers from three chronic conditions and takes five prescription medications, the number of health-care workers is declining. A 2012 survey conducted by the American Health Care Association shows the median turnover rate of direct care staff to be 50 percent. The survey also shows that about 70,000 direct-care staff positions were vacant in skilled nursing centers across the country—a 17 percent increase from 2010.

Linda_Kuhlman_at_screen_640x428_72_RGB.jpgAlthough health aides and other direct-care workers often say their work is rewarding, they also mention low wages, few opportunities for professional growth and high levels of physical and emotional stress. To address these issues, a new apprenticeship was developed by LeadingAge Minnesota and launched in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry Apprenticeship Division and Ridgewater College.

The Health Support Specialist Registered Apprenticeship gives direct-care workers the opportunity for career advancement while providing meaningful wage increases. The apprenticeship also offers a solution to the growing education and skills gap.

In addition, the apprenticeship combines practical on-the-job training with online instruction in areas caregivers utilize daily:

  • Meaningful activities
  • Memory care
  • Culinary care
  • Environmental Services
  • Physiological care
  • Psychosocial care

Courses are designed to work with staff members’ schedules and give them the chance to practice what they learn immediately.

To become a health support specialist, health aides must be registered nursing assistants, 18 years of age or older, with a high school diploma or GED. Once they are approved by Augustana Care, students receive 2,500 hours of on-the-job training and attend seven online college courses, taught by experts in the aging services field.

The apprenticeship is funded by the Minnesota Department of Health 2016 Home and Community-Based Services Employee Scholarship Grant Program, which awarded $50,000 to Augustana Care this year. To learn more or arrange an interview with staff and program participants, please contact mthorne@augustanacare.org or call 612-238-5992.