Young adult Hispanic woman is talking with young adult Caucasian blonde woman and young adult African American woman outside on college campus. Women are nursing or medical students. They are wearing hospital scrubs and stethoscopes.

The pool for potential nursing home workers in Iowa just grew by more than 300, thanks to state grants created to build a healthcare career pipeline. 

Iowa Workforce Development announced the second round of grants through its Health Careers Registered Apprenticeship Program with a total of $13.5 million awarded to 21 healthcare and education entities. The program will support 1,463 apprentices, according to a press release from Iowa WorkForce Development. 

“We still have an uphill battle we’re going to be fighting for years but being able to pay for education and pay wages — that’s going to help us out a ton,” Kim Schilling, CEO of Bethany Life, told McKnights Long-Term Care News on Tuesday. 

Bethany Manor in Story City, IA, received a $237,000 grant to fund 30 apprenticeships. Schilling said the company plans to fund wages plus classes, educational materials, and testing for certifications for current employees, high school students, and single mothers. 

“I know we have plenty of employees in-house who would jump at this opportunity,” Schilling said. “Many people don’t get paid during training, and they can’t afford that.” 

Schilling said they plan to hire people into non-certified positions such as homemaker, housekeeping, or companion and then pay for them to become certified nurse aides or a medication aide. Bethany Life will work with local high schools and community colleges to promote the opportunities. 

In February, McKnights reported that four nursing homes were put into receivership after the operator told the state Dept. of Inspections and Appeals it could no longer sustain the facilities. Since February 2022, 17 skilled nursing facilities have shuttered due to “an extraordinary explosion” of wages and operating costs. 

“Whatever we can do to encourage people to work in healthcare, especially with older adults, the better,” said Shannon Strickler, president and CEO of LeadingAge Iowa. “It’s not a magic bullet that’s going to solve the issue, but it’s certainly hopeful that we continue to make investments into bringing additional people into the healthcare workforce.”

Strickler told McKnights Long-Term Care News on Tuesday that workforce issues are “far and away” the association’s members’ biggest concern.

A spokeswoman for the Iowa Health Care Association told McKnights that the grants will help high school students build long-term care career skills through on-the-job training. 

“This apprenticeship grant provides another tool in the toolbox to help recruit more nurses and direct care workers,” said Lori Ristau, the association’s senior vice president for Strategic Communications. “Iowa nursing homes need more workers, and the positions most in demand are nursing and direct care positions.”

Other long-term care facilities that were awarded grants include: 

  • Charter Senior Living Sioux City, LLC, Sioux City, received $213,990 for 52 Apprentices;
  • LifeCare Companies, LLC, in Des Moines received $157,763 for 30 apprentices
  • WesleyLife in Johnston received $416,325 for 80 apprentices;
  • Western Home Services, Inc, in Cedar Falls received $1,341,617 for 135 apprentices;
  • Whiting Commercial Development Corporation in Whiting received $765,608 for 68 apprentices.

In June 2022, the state awarded the first round of apprenticeship grants totaling $2.45 million to help fund 450 new apprentices, the WorkForce Development press release said.