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Alaska Primary Care Association's Apprenticeship Model

Friday, September 15, 2017   (0 Comments)
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Cherise Fowler, Apprenticeship Training Coordinator, Alaska Primary Care Association

Cherise will be presenting on a workforce panel at the Fall Primary Care Conference.

Alaska Primary Care Association, Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and U.S. Department of Labor signed standards of apprenticeship to start four new health care Registered Apprenticeship programs in Alaska. There are currently four pathways that entry level staff at Community Health Centers can enroll into apprenticeship: Medical Admin Assistant, Clinical Medical Assistant, Biller and Coder Specialist and Community Health Worker. All courses are distance delivered so apprentices get to work, earn and learn all from their communities.


Registered Apprenticeship can be a critical part of the workforce strategy related to healthcare reform as it is seen as a way to train long-term care workers and address some of the workforce issues including recruitment and retention, training a quality workforce and improving quality of patient care. The potential in utilizing the Registered Apprenticeship model is that worker skill levels can be raised along with patient care without huge cost increases. This can lead to jobs with higher wages as workers show their increased value, creating the opportunity for upward mobility. Additionally, if entry- and middle-level healthcare workers are better trained, then higher level professionals—nurses and doctors—will be free to do the clinical work they are trained to do instead of lower level tasks.


There is increasing recognition that apprenticeship training is a highly effective workforce strategy for building skills and earnings in entry- and middle-level jobs, for increasing productivity and for aligning employer demands with the supply of workers for this critical industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that a substantial portion of the fastest growing occupations are concentrated in health services—most of these occupations are apprenticeable including home health aides, personal and home care aides, dental assistants, and medical assistants, (Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Winter 2009-10, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).


APCA’s Apprenticeship Model allows participation across our great state of Alaska. Programs range from one to two years in length. Apprentices can apply previous work experience to reduce overall requirements. Class meets once weekly for one hour, via GoToTraining. Replays are available for apprentices to easily access. All coursework is accessible online. APCA staff provide support and technical assistance on an ongoing basis. Funding for all coursework, related technical instruction and final exam costs are covered by the US Department of Labor Expansion Grant. This means apprentices can participate and earn a national certification free of charge. Employers are also eligible to receive funding to offset the cost of managers for mentoring apprentices.


There are currently 120 apprentices enrolled in the four apprenticeship pathways. 17 total employer organizations are participating both Tribal and non-Tribal Community Health Centers. The most popular pathway with over 40 enrolled apprentices is the Certified Billing and Coding Specialist. Certified Clinical Medical Assistant: 35 enrolled apprentices. Certified Medical Admin Assistant: 25 enrolled. Community Health Worker Apprenticeship: 20 enrolled. See map of apprentices spread across Alaska!



We launched our program in early 2017 and have learned quite a bit! Distance delivered education platforms are highly successful. We send weekly calendar invites to apprentices to remind them about class. Weekly check ins and peer support proved to be invaluable. To successfully recruit health center staff, we tapped into our networks, especially those in rural/underserved areas. Apprentices signed up at high rates since the program is free of charge. This truly was an opportunity of a lifetime and people recognized that right away. Aligning different programs and policies and leveraging funding across multiple grants allows these programs to become sustainable beyond the life of these grants.


We learned quickly that we needed more support staff to run the program as it became popular overnight. We purchased software to help manage 120 apprentices including a website, apprentice tracking system and online systems that apprentices could complete all coursework electronically. Due to the workloads of apprentices in this program we realized there may be times they can’t attend live sessions. We email replays of the class out weekly so apprentices can view and get credit for missed classes at any time. These are a few of the lessons learned since launching the apprenticeship program.


Our next cohort of classes begins in October 2017 for all four programs. We will also be testing the first group of apprentices in October 2017 for their national and state certifications. As a result there will be an increase of trained, experienced and certified professionals throughout Alaska’s health centers!



NWRPCA welcomes and regularly publishes white papers and articles submitted by members, partners and associates with subject matter expertise. The appearance of any guest publication in our Health Center News database represents the views of the author and does not constitute endorsement by NWRPCA of the stated opinions or perspectives, nor does it suggest endorsement of the contributor's products or services.



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