A New Tradition for Non-traditional Apprenticeships

As the Michigan economy grows so too do job opportunities and, in turn, the continued need for skilled professionals. That goes for industry sectors both intuitive – advanced manufacturing, information technology – and, perhaps, more counterintuitive – insurance, medical, social services and the like. In all cases, a U.S Department of Labor registered apprenticeship can provide employers in a range of fields with a viable option for training and cultivating talent. Let’s examine more closely the latter category and what is becoming known as “non-traditional apprenticeships.”

Winemaking. Tree trimming. Painting. Senior care. These sectors and others need workers, and all are often stymied by a range of factors that can conspire against their finding them. One significant barrier in both attraction and retention for many of these positions is the minimum wage conundrum and what a company can afford to pay new or existing talent. In this environment, such businesses need to provide additional “value adds.” And that’s exactly where a registered apprenticeship can have an impact.

What if you could offer a potential (or current) employee the opportunity to go to school and, at the same time, acquire new skills and be upskilled with simultaneous on-the-job training? With increased value beyond compensation, suddenly the recruitment playing field begins to become more level. For a company, there is also great value in the ability to train workers with the exact skills they need for the jobs they will perform. Such companies also routinely experience an employee retention rate increase of 40 percent more than those companies that do not offer apprenticeships: vitally important at a time when especially younger workers tend to “job hop.”

The pathway to apprenticeship can vary but is consistent in its simplicity and mission. Companies and potential employees can find each other through a local Michigan Works! Agency, area community college or via the Workforce Intelligence Network (WIN) at MIApprenticeship.org.  Then, depending on the industry and particular qualification standards, a test might be required prior to an individual being hired and then entered into an apprenticeship program. Incumbent workers a company is looking to upskill via apprenticeship would forego this initial interview/aptitude assessment process.

Every program can be tailored to meet the needs of the company and employee. A typical arrangement entails foundational training at a community college or other training center, coupled with on-the-job training with a mentor. Often, employees are paid during school and training, and sponsor companies can apply for an ever-growing number of state and federal grants to help underwrite those costs.

For Lynn Maginity, CEO of New Gateways, the apprentice system is poised to be just what the doctor ordered for her organization and industry. New Gateways is a caregiver organization that serves adults with mild to severe intellectual and developmental disabilities in Oakland and Macomb Counties. As the demand for her organization’s services grows, so does the imperative to find professionals to serve those in need. Throughout most of her 16 years with the organization, turnover rates typically hovered in the 14 percent area. Over the past four years, however, that turnover rate has exploded to between 37 and 40 percent: an alarming statistic. Not surprisingly, low pay rates for such caregivers is the primary cause, exacerbated further by competition from new caregiving centers, fueled by an aging population. A state-mandated higher minimum wage also has positives and negatives for New Gateways as Medicaid rate reimbursements have been stagnant for the better part of the past decade and are far behind inflation. Overall, these challenges create a perfect storm in great need of sunny skies.

To that end, New Gateways is working with WIN, Oakland Community College, Oakland County Michigan Works! and the Oakland Provider Alliance to complete development of and finalize standards for a Direct Support Professional/Specialist apprenticeship. Here, individuals who are hired into the organization and apprenticeship program will first go through two weeks of upfront training. That will be followed by 2-3 semesters of college classes at Oakland Community College concurrent with 1 ½ to 2 years of on-the-job training in order to complete the apprenticeship and receive certification from the Department of Labor. Of course, the individual is also a full-time, paid employee with a meaningful career opportunity and pathway.

Gateways and other members of the Oakland Provider Alliance, a consortium of caregiver organizations countywide, are working together with WIN and the State of Michigan to ultimately bring a range of registered apprenticeship programs and standards to the industry on a wider and more consistent level. Indeed, the staffing crisis is widely shared by collaborators and competitors alike.

“We can’t just sit idle and do nothing,” said Maginity. “We have to try to do something, and this seems like a great way to invest back into the field of caregiving: to do what is right for our employees, our organizations and, most of all, those we serve who are in such great need of being cared for to the very best of our abilities.”

Want more info? Come along to a free Care Provider Apprenticeship Info Session at OCC!

  • OCC Orchard Ridge Campus – Thursday,  Nov. 15, 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Details & RSVP
  • OCC Southfield Campus – Thursday, Nov. 15, 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. – Details & RSVP

 

WIN helps manage the Advance Michigan Center for Apprenticeship Innovation, a five-year DOL-funded project to expand regional apprenticeship through statewide innovation. For more information about launching an apprenticeship as an employer or gaining additional insight about apprenticeships as a potential candidate, visit miapprenticeship.org.

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