Apprentice program aims to fill health care worker shortage

As nursing homes, assisted living centers and other health care facilities struggle to fill jobs, Sinclair Community College and LeadingAge said a new Dayton apprentice program could help with this problem.

The Dayton Daily News has previously reported that recruiting and retaining staffing is a critical issue in the senior living industry, which patient advocates, senior living homes and regulators are struggling to resolve.

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State tested nurse aides, which provide basic care for patients, play a crucial role at senior living facilities but the physically and emotionally demanding job has high turnover rates, particularly as the labor market tightens and other industries raise their wages. STNAs had a median wage of $13.09 an hour as of 2017 in the Dayton metro area, according to the Ohio Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With the apprenticeship program through Sinclair, someone who is not yet an STNA works any entry level job at a health care business while they are taking classes and working to move into an role. It’s a competency-based instead of a time-based apprenticeship program, and while students are working, they are also getting measured off of different competencies.

Rena Shuchat, Sinclair dean of health sciences, said the goal is to get people working for the organizations they want a career at.

“It’s an entry level position that doesn’t require a credential and they are now working for the organization, learning and being educated for the career they want and they are being paid that way instead of working in fast food and then having to come over and do their clinicals,” Shuchat said. “When you are a student and you are in the environment, that alone will create learning experiences.”

The students can also get Apprentice Ohio grant money paying toward the Sinclair training. Sinclair is one of the first 10 community colleges awarded an Apprentice Ohio grant, that sets aside dollars that follow students through different apprentice programs and most of the employers also have sponsored billing programs to pay for the school after that grant money runs out, said Chad Bridgman, Sinclair director of the Office of Work-Based Learning.

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Several health care organizations had representatives at Sinclair on Friday morning for the kick off of the program.

LaToya Masterson, Premier Health director of education, said the health system has had challenging times in recruiting STNAs and has been working on it’s recruitment, including going out to the high schools, bringing in students for career exploration and recently branching out and hiring high school students as STNAs.

“What we have noticed with our STNAs is that it’s a position in high demand and we know we have to do things differently,” Masterson said.

As a long time partner with Sinclair and its education programs, Masterson said Premier officials are excited about what the new STNA program could bring. She said the program is another way that Sinclair is finding affordable ways for students to be educated and to fill high demand jobs.

MORE: Local nursing homes struggle with staffing. Here’s what we know.

Patrick Schwartz, director of strategic communications with LeadingAge, a trade group for nonprofit aging services, said they are working with other community colleges around Ohio to create similar apprentice programs.

Shuchat said they already have partnerships set up to work with Graceworks Lutheran Services and Otterbein SeniorLife as well as with Premier Health for acute care.

The STNA training is supposed to be a building block in a career path and the employer can then help the employee get trained for more relevant skills, which should help with retention, Sinclair officials said.

“We are hopeful that by investing in this STNA who then you give them additional credentials — whether that’s home health aide, patient care technician or activity programming — you’re saying to that employee ‘We want you and we want you to feel good about your job, so we’ll invest in further so you’ll have more credentials and hoping you’ll stay longer,” Shuchat said.

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