Healthcare apprenticeships via LCC are a win for students and employers

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(Steve Robinson is the seventh president of Lansing Community College.)

The pandemic has shown us the critical necessity for healthcare workers. Even before the pandemic, the realities of an aging population required an influx of new healthcare workers to address rising care needs. Now, in the midst of the most critical public health event of our lifetimes, healthcare professionals are even more essential.

Training healthcare workers is a careful process. It has to be, because healthcare work has little margin for error. Students who work toward careers in the healthcare industry have to balance rigorous academics with clinical practice. At Lansing Community College, healthcare students work closely with local hospitals and doctors to gain operational proficiency.

One strategy to address the critical need for healthcare workers is through registered apprenticeship programs with the U.S. Department of Labor. An apprenticeship is an “earn-and-learn” model whereby students, as apprentices, are paid employees of a healthcare organization while progressing through an LCC academic program. They earn an industry credential and become fully qualified to serve the workforce needs of their employer.

The “earn-and-learn” aspect of LCC’s healthcare apprenticeships is essential because income allows students in medical fields to focus on their studies. Will Emerson, director of apprenticeships and external partnerships at LCC, knows the impact earning during apprenticeships makes for students.

“College is demanding on its own, and learning for work in medical fields can exacerbate this,” Emerson said. “Through an apprenticeship, students earn a wage while they complete their studies. This prepares students twofold:  they learn the ins-and-outs of their craft, and they learn how to manage a paycheck and their personal economy. Because they are so immersive, apprenticeships really prepare students for the work they’re going to do. With a paycheck added, their preparation is all the more holistic.”

Apprenticeships, long a mainstay in manufacturing and other industries, are relatively new to healthcare. Both state and federal government strongly support USDOL healthcare apprenticeships through funding that benefits employers and apprentices. By funding programs that make healthcare apprenticeships possible, USDOL increases the number of healthcare professionals ready to help our communities.

Jan Karazim, dean of health and human services at LCC, understands the great potential of apprenticeships in healthcare.

“In an effort to serve employers and build capacity, LCC’s HHS division has established the Office of Apprenticeship and External Partnership funded by the USDOL’s Strengthening Community College grant,” Karazim said. “The purpose of the office, led by Dr. Will Emerson, is to work on behalf of employers with the USDOL to establish apprenticeship programs that address their specific workforce needs.”

Once an employer establishes an apprenticeship program, Emerson’s office will assume the responsibility of tracking and reporting apprenticeship data as required by the USDOL, relieving employers of this often time and labor-intensive work. To assist with matching apprentices with employers, Emerson and his staff will collaborate with LCC’s recruitment and career services professionals, as well as Capital Area Michigan Works! to identify individuals for employers to interview and hire for apprenticeship programs.

“Healthcare apprenticeships are great opportunities for students and for our communities,” Emerson said. “By providing apprenticeships for future healthcare workers, we accelerate their acclimation to patient care, and their ability to step in and help.”

LCC’s HHS division provides training for Sparrow Hospital’s USDOL registered apprenticeship program in medical assisting. Further, LCC has established a collaborative option of its medical assistant program to be offered through the Michigan Community College Association educational programs. The flexible structure and delivery model of this program appeals to a wide range of healthcare employers interested in establishing apprenticeship programs with flexible online and virtual learning to better fit an apprentices’ work schedule.

By extending opportunities in medical education to include apprenticeships, LCC is helping medical employers make care more accessible for all. Apprenticeships accelerate the prepared professionalism of health care students, which allows them to focus and develop the skills required of their positions. With LCC’s apprenticeship programs, healthcare providers benefit from hands-on work from invested employees who are learning specifically to work in healthcare industries.

LCC’s HHS division intends on leveraging medical apprenticeships to help employers fill workforce needs in any of their open positions, from nurses and surgical technologists, to radiographers and EEG technologists, and many others. Employers interested in USDOL apprenticeship programs should contact Will Emerson at emersow1@star.lcc.edu for more information.

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