Workforce Solutions Capital Area, training providers, and healthcare employers expand “earn as you learn” apprenticeship opportunities in the Austin metro

AUSTIN —This year’s National Apprenticeship Week, from Nov. 15-21, celebrates the role of apprenticeship in helping workers earn while they learn and fill critical roles in the workforce.

Workforce development experts and major healthcare employers say Austin has a reason to celebrate.

To help address an exacerbated skilled healthcare worker shortage amid an ongoing public health crisis, the Texas Workforce Commission has awarded $540,000 in ApprenticeshipTexas Expansion grants to Workforce Solutions Capital Area. The regional workforce development board is joining Austin Community College and Innovative Workforce Projects to expand registered apprenticeship programs (RAPs) for in-demand healthcare jobs such as medical assistant, patient care technician, and more. Collaborating employers include St. David’s Healthcare, Baylor Scott & White Health, and Austin Regional Clinic.

The critical positions targeted by these expanded RAPs are middle-skill, which require an industry-recognized certification. In other words, more than a high school diploma but less than a college degree. 

Apprenticeships help eliminate barriers to pursuing a traditional education program by emphasizing paid on-the-job learning toward achieving certification. For employers, apprenticeships address difficult-to-fill jobs and are a strategy to attract and retain talent.

Workforce Solutions says that expanding apprenticeship programs is an opportunity for unemployed and underemployed residents to gain new skills valued by hiring employers, at the same time strengthening the region’s economic competitiveness.

“By becoming an apprentice, Austinites can achieve their certification at no cost, better provide for their families, and start a path to a more self-sufficient career,” says Amber Warne, director of upskilling and advancement at Workforce Solutions Capital Area. “Expanding these apprenticeship programs will also help healthcare employers in Central Texas hire locally to fill roles quickly and continue providing safe and quality care to their patients.”

The program goal is to train 270 apprentices.

Apprenticeships to fill the gaps

According to a Workforce Solutions industry analysis, healthcare is one of the largest industry clusters in the Austin metro, with over 100,000 workers on payroll. 65,000 of those positions are considered middle-skill positions.

But even with the size of the region’s healthcare workforce positions, there are still gaps in employment. Although the Austin metro has regained all of 2020’s pandemic-related job losses, employers still face a tight labor market with particular difficulty filling middle-skill roles.

“During the coronavirus pandemic, we saw employment gaps grow,” says Mark Sherry, regional director for human resources at Baylor Scott & White Health. “As our region’s healthcare needs change, we need greater access to skilled healthcare professionals.”

“The pandemic threw employers and employees into uncharted territory as we dealt with childcare, worked to figure out how employees could work from home, and provided solutions for extra mental and physical health support,” Sherry added. “As employers faced a tight Austin job market, low unemployment rate, and a dearth of employees with the right mix of skills, they began investing in training that will enhance future workforce needs. At Baylor Scott & White, it highlighted the need for our efforts more than ever.”

In response to hiring challenges brought on by the pandemic, Baylor Scott & White has launched recruiting initiatives. Through the RAP expansion effort, the hospital system has also held two medical assistant apprenticeship cohorts in 2021, upskilling 19 employees and a third cohort is almost complete.

Interested residents can start their careers in healthcare with companies like Baylor Scott & White Health, St. David’s Healthcare, and Austin Regional Clinic! Apply or learn more about these healthcare apprenticeships on Workforce Solutions’ website.

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