Apprenticeships Helping Henry Ford Health System Fill Key Roles

Julie Bitely

| 4 min read

Nurse assistant in a hospital setting.
For the Henry Ford Health System, nursing assistant, medical assistant and pharmacy technician jobs are among the most in-demand through its system of hospitals and clinics. But finding the right candidates with the right technical and soft skills was proving challenging. Enter a new apprenticeship program driven by the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund (DRWF), an organization funded and run by nationally- and locally-based nonprofit and corporate partners that pool their resources to provide comprehensive resources to support the economic mobility of families, housed and staffed at the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. The DRWF is co-funded by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, JP Morgan Chase Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, PNC Bank, General Motors and the United Way. Together, the hospital system and DRWF are piloting a program that provides health care apprenticeships for these important roles, drawing from the ranks of entry-level workers already employed in food service, parking services or environmental service roles at Henry Ford, as well as eligible workers in the neighborhoods where Henry Ford has a footprint. The DRWF provided $140,000 to support the program, including $50,000 from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation. The Henry Ford Health System provided $160,000 of leveraged in-kind support. According to the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, health care has a significant impact on Michigan’s economy and is growing faster than any other sector. Detroit’s large number of unemployed and underemployed adults offer a pool of applicants who could be trained to step into the many unfilled jobs in the industry. “This program provided an opportunity to expand our training offerings to the health care sector, which is a high-demand industry,” said Derrick Meeking, director of talent & workforce initiatives at United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “We expect that the success realized from this public-private co-investment model will afford us an opportunity to scale with additional hospitals.” Nora Maloy, director of programs, BCBSM Foundation and a member of DRWF's steering committee since its inception, agrees. "I find this is one of the best programs I've seen to both improve health care while enhancing the economic prosperity of local neighborhoods," Maloy said. The apprenticeships allow entry-level workers to move up the ladder at Henry Ford. A nurse assistant training pilot program kicked off in October 2018 and the employees now filling nurse assistant roles have sustained an 80 percent retention rate. To get into the program, candidates had to have a recommendation from their direct supervisor and a stellar attendance record, ensuring employees with a good track record. Their new jobs pay significantly more than what they were making and open additional opportunities to further their career, which makes Henry Ford attractive to potential employees. “We want you to come in, but at Henry Ford, we want you to come in and move up and this was a great way to do that,” said AJ Evans, who works as a workforce solutions consultant at Henry Ford. As part of the apprenticeships, trainees are provided wraparound services such as referrals for assistance with transportation and childcare. Henry Ford also continues to pay the employees as they go through the program. This means they don’t have to balance working a full-time job with after-hours, off-site training—an expectation that often isn’t realistic for employees with families and other responsibilities. “We recognize that participants have lives outside of the four walls they’re working in, and that our programs must be designed to support the whole person in order for them to succeed,” Meeking said. Removing barriers provides a pathway out of poverty for many people going through similar programs, Meeking explained. Evans agrees, and added that she doesn’t believe the entry-level workers who have moved up into nurse assistant positions would have been able to do so without the financial and technical support of the DRWF. “I don’t think these opportunities would have been available,” Evans said. A pharmacy tech program will begin in March and will be made up of a mix of internal and external candidates. The DRWF also hopes to add more apprenticeship programs in the health care sector in the future. “We are really excited about what the future holds as we work to expand this program to additional hospitals to support more people in Detroit and throughout the region,” Meeking said. Find upcoming apprenticeship opportunities at Henry Ford Health System here. If you found this post helpful, read these:
Photo credit: Fat Camera
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