Healthcare leaders and policymakers attend graduation of SkillSpring CNA training pilot program
From left to right: SkillSpring Director Nicole Cash, CEO at The New Jewish Home Dr. Jeffrey Farber, Senator Cordell Cleare, SkillSpring Young Adult Program Manager Moustapha Mbaye, Manhattan Deputy Borough President Keisha Sutton-James, and Assistant Administrator at MJHS Isabella Center Jessica Garcia-Robinson

As the need to attract new staff into the flagging long-term care workforce intensifies, one provider’s successful career program is expanding its scope to help in-state competitors.

Created in 2006 to provide a career path into nursing for financially insecure young adults in New York, The New Jewish Home’s SkillSpring program has since expanded to other facilities across the state. Most recently, a pilot program at the Isabella Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing Care in Washington Heights graduated 14 students — all of whom expect to pursue a career as certified nursing assistants, according to The New Jewish Home.

By the start of 2023, The New Jewish Home had hired more than 150 SkillSpring alumni. More than 90% of alumni are either employed or pursuing a college degree.

Expanding SkillSpring’s successes across the state is a key part of the vision for the program, according to Jeffrey Farber, CEO at The New Jewish Home. 

“It is critical we expand programs that can help tackle the acute workforce crisis among health providers serving older adults,” Farber said. “SkillSpring is a replicable model that has delivered outstanding results for the past 17 years …. Graduating our first cohort at Isabella Center is a significant milestone as we continue to expand SkillSpring across New York.”

With staffing topping the list of care sector concerns, care worker educational programs continue to draw interest around the nation. If SkillSpring proves to be scalable statewide, it could be a good sign of things to come.

This recent pilot program follows another that started in late 2022 at The Hebrew Home at Riverdale in the Bronx. SkillSpring’s recent expansions have received support from both private donors and government sources.

Late last year, Farber told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News that SkillSpring was “one of the top two exciting things that I do,” alongside innovating nursing home small house concepts.

He said the training has worked to bolster care quality in his communities because of its approach to “inclusivity and intergenerational living and the benefits that people get from that.”

The program’s new partners have been enthusiastic about its potential for helping to address workforce concerns. 

“With staffing shortages widely impacting healthcare in general, this transformational program addresses a significant need while opening the door to a career path for young adults who might otherwise not have this opportunity,” said Loyola Princivil-Barnett, COO of MJHS Centers for Rehabilitation and Nursing Care and the administrator of Isabella Center. 

In a statement to McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, The New Jewish Home explained why it is expanding its program to include competing facilities.

“The nonprofit sees its social mission as helping advance the sector; it is not just a health care provider but a training and research organization,” read the statement. “The industry is facing a staffing crisis and that there is a growing need for geriatric care workers. SkillSpring is a solution for the industry’s acute workforce shortages.”

How it works

SkillSpring is divided into two main programs — a 12-week hands-on training for young adults, and a three-year after-school program that provides CNA training to high school students. 

The newest pilots are among the short-term young adult programs and focus on small groups or 20 or fewer students, usually from underserved areas. Students receive a CNA license upon successful completion and are guaranteed a job offer from the program’s partners if they pursue a career in the field, according to The New Jewish Home. 

The program also provides “wraparound” benefits for students with outstanding financial needs, such as assistance with uniforms, public transportation, meals, stipends and paid internship opporunities. 

“We also provide case management for participants by connecting them with resources such as SNAP application assistance with the NYC Human Resources Administration,” Farber told LeadingAge. “We collaborate with our partner, the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center in New York City, to provide participants with job readiness preparation, including resume assistance, professional development, and financial literacy.”

“SkillSpring solves two pressing issues at the same time — staffing shortages and racial equity,” said Nicole Cash, the program’s director. “We have worked with individuals that have experienced homelessness and we have created avenues for economic success, sending several of our graduates to nursing roles within premier health systems.”