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As long-term care providers confront a shrinking workforce, a new federal staffing mandate and a rapidly aging population, one nonprofit workforce development organization has set its sights on becoming a national model for bringing new certified nursing assistants into the sector.

And sticking with them until they’re earning six-figure salaries, if desired.

Dwyer Workforce Development announced plans to train and place 3,500 CNAs in 2024 — nearly quadruple the annual rate of the approximately 2,000 total trained between its launch in 2021 and the end of 2023. 

The growing nonprofit credits the booming projection to productive partnerships with providers, a commitment to following up on their processes with data and a holistic approach to meeting the needs of trainees during and after workforce training. 

Many candidates for long-term care workforce programs lack resources and may have significant barriers to being able to pursue education and full time work, Barb Clapp, CEO at DWD told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Tuesday.

“If the same barriers exist after you get a job, you can’t do your job,” she explained. “We’re [using] person-centered case management and comprehensive wraparound services. Those workforce interventions are making a huge difference.”

Those wraparound services begin as soon as candidates express an interest in becoming a trainee, or “Scholar,” per program language. DWD completes a barrier assessment for each incoming candidate, identifying challenges such as insecure housing or transportation, and childcare needs, which DWD can address.

DWD also has established what they call “healthcare villages” — communities that provide housing support, meet childcare needs, and centralize training and personal development resources. The villages also address transportation gaps by bringing Scholars together.

The organization’s case managers also serve as coaches for DWD’s Scholars, Clapp told McKnight’s — sometimes speaking with trainees as often as daily and providing advice on how to build constructive habits and navigate the expectations of a heavily regulated healthcare job. 

Partnerships and followup

To date, 81% of DWD’s Scholars complete CNA training. Of that group, 86% are successfully placed in a healthcare setting. 

Maintaining strong relationships with providers and regularly following up with Scholars have been keys to DWD’s success, Clapp said.

The nonprofit currently partners with providers in Maryland, Texas and Florida, with the goal of expanding to at least two more states this year. Those partnerships involve regular sharing of data and check-ins about new CNAs’ progress.

The data is critical for improving DWD’s processes and for quantifying its impact while applying for grant funding. The check-ins allow DWD to address challenges their former Scholars might be facing in their new workplaces. 

“Once a Dwyer Scholar, always a Dwyer Scholar,” Clapp said — noting that continued development is another aim of the program. “It’s important to… have first-gen graduates and have people who are [directors of nursing] with six-figure salaries.”

One Dwyer partner weighed in on the nonprofits impact Tuesday.

“A huge part of what they have to offer is case management and wrap-around services so that students are well equipped to start working as a CNA/GNA,” Lou Grimmel Sr., CEO of Lorien Health Services in Maryland, told McKnight’s. “We are grateful to partner with an organization that has a stable funding source and whose true focus is on outcomes and does it the right way. With all of the discussions out of Washington about mandated new staffing requirements in nursing homes what Dwyer does is going to be even more important and valuable to the industry.”