Charter Senior Living is working to combat workforce shortages by implementing a unique apprenticeship program that’s changing the career paths of its associates. Since launching the Healthcare Apprenticeship Expansion Program (HAEP) with senior living advocacy leader Argentum, Charter Senior Living has promoted 20 employees from its 45 senior living communities across the country.
HAEP was initiated through Argentum as part of a grant by the U.S. Department of Labor. It aims to address the skills gap in health care and health care IT occupations by expanding apprenticeships for positions like CNAs, LPNs, RNs and Rehabilitation Technicians, as well as creating and expanding skill sets in new apprenticeship programs for health care leadership positions.
In 2021, the career growth and career development program was launched with current staff members, and mentors and lead caregivers were identified for participation. Throughout the first year, the associates chose their career paths and then worked closely with mentors and lead caregivers to achieve future goals and complete training and steps that come with wage increases.
“Through the program, associates are able to develop a career path by being assigned a mentor and provided additional training and education with the goal of job growth and promotions,” said President and Chief Operating Officer Jayne Sallerson. “We’re investing in the future of our team members and the culture here. 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.”
Currently 77 employees are enrolled in the apprenticeship program. Communities in Michigan, Iowa and Tennessee will all launch programs in 2023.
Along with a career development plan, HAEP participants also can receive financial support and care management services through a relatively new partnership with Work Well, which helps apprentices pursue their programs, overcome barriers and, ultimately, 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.
“Our goal is to help employees be successful in their long-term careers and future roles,” said Ruth Patterson, Division Director of TalentGrow. “Sometimes this means adding just a little extra help getting to work. We believe this service is a huge value to our apprentices.”
In an interview with McKnight’s Senior Living, Sallerson spoke about the importance of career planning for associates. “As our commitment to our employees, we wanted to provide career growth opportunities. These are line staff employees who have never really been given an opportunity to grow their careers.”
As part of the program, five winners from participating communities were announced as Argentum All-Star Apprentices of the Year. Two Charter Senior Living associates received this award and will receive aid to help them continue in their program and reach their professional aspirations.
The winners include Charter Senior Living of Gainesville’s Resident Care Coordinator Stephanie Dennis, who’s been with her community for 17 years, and 19-year associate and CNA Amanda Tharpe from Charter Senior Living of Paris. “Both women have shown extraordinary perseverance and a passion for training and sharing their knowledge with others in the field,” said Sallerson. “They strive to ensure the residents they work with are cared for in the same way they would care for their own family members.”
Tharpe received her CNA certification at just 16 years old and says she’s enjoyed all the career opportunities Charter Senior Living has provided in enhancing her quality of life. “I fell in love with the way each resident warmed my heart. It became more than just a job; it gave me an overwhelming feeling of joy each day.”
Dennis joined the Charter Senior Living of Gainesville team as a Caregiver, and throughout the years, she has advanced to become a Medical Technician and now a Resident Care Coordinator working with Memory Care and Assisted Living residents. “Charter Senior Living and this apprenticeship program have given me opportunities I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. These residents are more like family to me, and it brings me so much joy to see them happy and thriving every day.”
Argentum was one of 28 public-private partnerships to receive a collective $100 million in the United States. The association has a goal of enrolling and supporting more than 7,200 apprentices by February 2024.