Seated at a table together, the two female nursing students smile as they listen to a lecture by an unseen teacher.
(Image Credit: SDI Productions / Getty Images)

With a boost from a grant program initiated by Argentum, one senior living provider is using apprenticeships to recruit and retain frontline staff who previously had no career growth paths.

Since launching its program last spring, Naperville, IL-based Charter Senior Living has promoted 20 employees at 45 communities to lead caregivers, lead medical technicians and director positions within the company through Argentum’s Healthcare Apprenticeship Expand Program.

HAEP was initiated through Argentum as part of a $6 million US Department of Labor grant to train apprentices in key senior living and allied health occupations. Argentum was one of 28 public-private partnerships to receive a collective $100 million. The association has a goal of enrolling and supporting more than 7,200 apprentices by February 2024.

The HAEP program addresses the skills gap in healthcare and healthcare IT occupations by expanding apprenticeships for a variety of positions, including certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and rehabilitation technicians. It also created new apprenticeship programs for healthcare leadership positions, which Charter Senior Living adopted.

“As our commitment to our employees, we wanted to provide an opportunity for career growth,” President and Chief Operating Officer Jayne Sallerson told McKnight’s Senior Living. “These are line staff employees who have never really been given an opportunity to grow their careers.”

Along with career growth, participants also receive financial rewards and have access to additional financial assistance. 

Charter has 77 employees currently enrolled in the apprenticeship programs. Communities in Michigan will launch the program in April, followed by Iowa communities in May and eventually additional communities in Tennessee.

The provider opened the program first to current staff members. As mentors and lead caregivers were identified for participation, communities began to market the program to outside applicants and offer them the option to enroll. Participants choose their career paths and work closely with mentors and lead caregivers to achieve goals and complete training, steps that come with wage increases throughout the first year.

“Through the program, associates are able to develop a career path by being assigned a mentor and [are] provided additional training and education with the goal of job growth and promotions,” Sallerson said. “We’ve seen such great success with this program with caregivers and nurses that we plan to expand it to other departments and managerial roles in the coming year.”

Virginia Health Services also participates in the Argentum HAEP program, operating an earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program that graduates care assistants to nurse aides and covers the cost of the nursing assistant certification exam. 

HAEP participants also can receive financial support and care management services through a relatively new partnership with Work Well, which helps apprentices persist in their programs, overcome barriers and reach their professional goals. That support can come in the form of utility assistance, child care, home repair, medical emergency assistance, eviction assistance, financial literacy education and more.