Argentum President and CEO James Balda delivers remarks Tuesday at the 2019 Senior Living Executive Conference.

SAN ANTONIO — Argentum will sponsor what is believed to be the first-ever national apprenticeship for nursing assistants and other caregivers in senior living, President and CEO James Balda announced Tuesday morning at the 2019 Senior Living Executive Conference here.

The apprenticeship will establish standards for on-the-job training and related instruction in dementia care, safety and other common needs across senior living providers. The pathway is being developed by an Apprenticeship Steering Group of Argentum members, including representatives from Brookdale, Commonwealth, Country Meadows, Life Care Services, Merrill Gardens, OnShift, Trilogy Health Services and Vi.

“This initiative will pave the way for caregiver advancement in the industry,” Balda said. “We need to continue to reward high-performers and retain dedicated talent, and apprenticeship programs are an opportunity as seen in other industries such as restaurants, hospitality and multi-family housing.”

Balda also announced the launch of a new service, the Workforce Insight Report, sponsored by OnShift. The customized report will be available as a benefit for Argentum’s Premier members and will highlight regional workforce statistics, year-over-year trends and occupational wage rates for 383 metropolitan statistical areas (members may choose up to six for their customized report). Providers can use the report to help conduct annual wage analyses, comparisons with other senior living operators and healthcare providers, and staffing plans at their new or existing communities.

Balda also provided an update on Argentum’s Senior Living Works initiative, announced at last year’s conference. The initiative now has more than 550 “ambassadors” from across the senior living industry, and they plan to hold 500 outreach events through June, reaching more than 13,500 students.

The second phase of the Senior Living Works initiative, launched at the end of last year, provides an online resource to help members identify and connect with college programs directly related to senior living careers. The next phase of initiative, Balda said, will aim to develop strong awareness of opportunities in senior living among those looking for careers.

“It’s up to all of us, collectively, to spread the word that working in senior living is more than just a job but rather an opportunity for a rewarding career offering growth, advancement, and even personal enrichment,” he said. “We need to continue to share the story of senior living — one that offers long-term careers in a growth industry focused on developing valued talent.”

Balda’s comments came before he introduced Kim Campbell, Alzheimer’s advocate and widow of entertainer Glen Campbell, who gave remarks before introducing the recipients of this year’s Hero Awards.

Commenting that, as a caregiver to her husband, she waited too long to “join a memory care community,” Campbell said “memory care should be everyone’s first choice, not last resort.”

Recipients of the Hero Awards, by whom Campbell said she was “completely inspired,” included Clifford “Skip” Collins, community outreach and resident advocate at Health Management; Lindsay Vayda, business office manager at Brookdale Bonita Springs in Florida; and Zachary “DJ” Buff, supplier relations coordinator for Affinity Living Group.

Penny Smith, executive director of Vi at Bentley Village, Naples, FL, received the 2019 Argentum Senior Living Community Leadership Award.

The award recipients will be profiled in the May/June issue of Argentum’s magazine.

Also Tuesday, Argentum announced a partnership with the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe program, which includes food safety training, resources and examinations created by foodservice and regulatory experts. Through the agreement, Argentum members can receive a discount on course content that can be used to prepare for the ServSafe certification examination.

This year’s meeting has attracted 2,300 attendees and 300 exhibitors, according to Argentum. It continues through Wednesday.