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CLINICAL CARE: Hannah Bridgewater works in the senior health department at Cox South Hospital as part of her apprenticeship training to become a certified medical assistant with the health care system.
JYM WILSON | SBJ
CLINICAL CARE: Hannah Bridgewater works in the senior health department at Cox South Hospital as part of her apprenticeship training to become a certified medical assistant with the health care system.

City looks to boost apprenticeships via $3M federal grant

Springfield officials want to reach nearly 1,300 apprentices over three years

Posted online

After receiving a $3 million federal grant to bolster registered apprentices in southwest Missouri, the city of Springfield’s Department of Workforce Development is ready to launch open enrollment for the training program.

The city was one of 39 agencies – and the only one in the state – awarded part of $121 million in Apprenticeship Building America grants allocated by the U.S. Department of Labor. The grant allows the city to expand industries served by registered apprenticeships, officials say, noting the program previously covered construction, health care, information technology, manufacturing and transportation.

“This grant expanded that reach into public safety, education and renewable energy,” said Katherine Trombetta, spokesperson for the Missouri Job Center, which coordinates the city’s registered apprenticeship program. “It expands the scope and amount of registered apprenticeships that we will be creating for the region.”

The apprenticeship model combines classroom learning with hands-on experience and pays the apprentice while providing them with a nationally recognized credential from the Labor Department upon completion of the program.

“Our overall goal is to increase access to registered apprenticeships for anyone that is interested. We have an overarching goal to serve 1,275 people throughout the three years of the grant in a 10-county region,” Trombetta said, noting its service area duplicates that of the Springfield Regional Economic Partnership, covering Barry, Christian, Dade, Dallas, Greene, Lawrence, Polk, Stone, Taney and Webster counties.

Trombetta said the Job Center is seeking partnerships with companies and organizations wishing to start their own registered apprenticeship programs. Private or public entities may already have internships and on-the-job training programs that could easily be turned into registered apprenticeships, she said.

“Our staff is able to work with those companies to actually get that certification from the Department of Labor,” she said.

The grant, which is fully funded by the federal agency, covers the cost of training for industry partners, Trombetta said. Additionally, the Job Center may also help apprentices with supportive services, such as transportation assistance and child care.

In partnership
Training partners in several industries plan to offer apprenticeship programs through the grant. Among them are Jordan Valley Community Health Center, Positronic Industries Inc. and the Springfield Police Department, according to officials. No specific amounts are being provided to participants, as officials say those totals will vary based on factors such as number of programs and apprentices.

Another industry partner, CoxHealth, is no stranger to apprenticeship programs. The Springfield-based health system has offered a medical assistant apprenticeship program since 2019. The roughly 16-week program includes class and lab time at Ozarks Technical Community College and clinical rotations at a CoxHealth clinic, said Katelyn Lenhart, administrative director of workforce development.

In return for a 30-month work commitment, CoxHealth pays the cost of tuition and supplies – estimated at $5,250 – directly to OTC for those selected to the program, according to the health system’s website. A $1,000 sign-on bonus also is offered to apprentices, who are paid while in the program, which currently hosts three cohorts per year.

The program’s current cohort has 23 apprentices and 182 have completed it since 2019, officials say.

Lenhart said CoxHealth had a collaborative discussion in February with Job Center staff as it sought to expand its apprenticeship offerings. The medical assistant program showed “a proof of concept,” she said.

“We knew we could replicate that in a variety of different ways,” Lenhart said, noting apprenticeships are being planned for emergency medical technicians, pharmacy technicians, medical coding, graduate nurse residencies and certified nurse assistants. “Those are some of the ones being explored so far, and we do anticipate continuing to create more in partnership with the Job Center.”

CoxHealth is waiting on approval from the Labor Department to add the additional programs as registered apprenticeships.

“We’re starting the planning right now for them,” she said. “We plan to start those this year. We really see this as a pipeline initiative for CoxHealth. While this grant is helping us expand faster, we have a dire need to increase the number of people that are working in health care.”

Lenhart said CoxHealth’s careers page on its website lists well over 1,000 open positions.

“With a lot of the positions, particularly entry-level health care, which are a lot of what these apprenticeship programs are, there is a significant amount of training that is needed,” she said.

“It’s a way for us to really build our pipeline of talent and get them engaged this way while paying them to get their training at the same time.”

Internship option
Expanding apprenticeships aren’t the only new opportunities coming to CoxHealth this year. The company also recently announced a nonallied health internship program for the summer.

“We do have needs in business-type functions that are what it really takes to run a big hospital,” Lenhart said. “This is providing predominantly undergraduate students for this program an opportunity to do an internship with us in IT, data analytics, human resources, business accounting, clinic operations – some of those types of positions.

“This is allowing them to do an internship during the summer that really gives them a robust experience and what it’s like to work in a business unit in health care.”

The 10-week program, which starts June 5, is an undisclosed first-time investment for CoxHealth. Lenhart said there’s no set limit of participants, adding interviews are starting this month for the paid internships, which are posted on its website.

“We hope to scale it every year as we see what our interest is and how that pipeline is flowing with students entering our program,” she said.

As CoxHealth readies its new internship program, Trombetta said the Job Center is excited for its apprenticeship training partners to roll out programs for prospective employees. The Job Center staff is ready to facilitate connections with more companies and prospective apprentices over the course of the three-year grant, she added.

“We just want more opportunities for people of all different backgrounds to be able to access this type of training and these types of opportunities,” she said.

“It’s creating those on-ramps, if you will, for individuals to better their lives and get the training they need to fulfill their career goals.”

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