One way to refill the long-term care staffing pipeline is with a robust apprenticeship program that sends students to many of the nation’s nursing homes, officials with nonprofit nursing home advocate LeadingAge said.

The provider organization has lobbied Congress to specifically target aging services when it considers funding Registered Apprenticeship programs with more than $60 million in the coming months, Andrea Price-Carter, director of workforce and technology policy for LeadingAge, told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Tuesday.

If LeadingAge and other advocates for apprenticeships get what they’re after, facilities could be populated with apprentices in many roles besides nursing, Price-Carter pointed out. Those could include environmental services, culinary, respiratory therapists, direct care supervisors, resident care advisors

Price-Carter is optimistic about the funding, and specifically that the targeted language specifies aging services.

“Through the appropriations process, it does appear that we’re moving in a direction that at least is positive,” she said. “It’s an area that has bicameral support and bipartisan support. This is a strong program where funding should be increased. The best of all outcomes would be language that says aging services should be targeted, that somehow there be some expansion or incentive that the programs also be directed to aging services providers.”

Overdue relief?

It’s past time for the apprenticeship model to enter long-term care facilities, said Jenna Kellerman, LeadingAge’s director of workforce strategy and development. The current framework of classroom training plus on-the-job training through clinicals is very similar to the apprenticeship framework, she said.

“Our sector is ripe for initiating apprenticeships. We just haven’t historically had them,” she told McKnight’s. “It’s such a strong model for training. Implementing apprenticeship models where we’re able to train people on the floor in our organizations would be a huge win for our sector in general in terms of training nurses.”

The staffing shortage demands any tactic that can help, Kellerman said.

“We’d be a strong sector to do that because we do so much on-the-job training already,” Kellerman said. “We do a lot of competency based training and testing, a lot of annual training, we have staff educators on our payroll. It’s so adaptable. Our field is ready for it.”

Kellerman said the sector would be happy to have apprentices learn the ins and outs of paperwork and oversight.

“It’s all solvable, we just have to get in there and then implement it,” she said.

More money for more opportunities

The Fiscal Year 2023 House Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill recommends $303 million for the Registered Apprenticeship Program — $68 million more than the FY 2022-enacted level, and the same as President Biden’s FY 2023 budget request, according to LeadingAge. 

The program expands work-based learning programs, and helps individuals receive progressive wage increases, classroom instruction, and a portable, nationally-recognized credential within their industry. The Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill includes language that strongly supports efforts to expand the Registered Apprenticeships to:

  • Traditionally underrepresented communities;
  • Identify key sectors, with growing workforce demands that adapt well within apprenticeship models and develop streamlined plans with key stakeholders to execute apprenticeship programs;
  • Accelerate efforts to recruit and retain woman as part of these programs, and to ensure equal compensation; and
  • Expand youth apprenticeships, and pre-apprenticeship programs to create more job training opportunities – especially in the face of shifting workforce needs and in-demand career skills.

The Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill includes $300 million, a $65 million increase for the Registered Apprenticeship Program. It includes language that supports the use of the apprenticeship grants that provide worker education for in-demand and emerging fields, and nontraditional industries. It also encourages the funding of apprenticeship opportunities in local communities that have high unemployment rates.