Harper College, JourneyCare develop apprenticeship program to address workforce need

JourneyCare logoHarper College in recent years has emerged as a national leader in apprenticeships, establishing regional industry partnerships that connect employers with a high-quality talent pipeline tailored to their workforce needs.

So when leadership at JourneyCare, the largest nonprofit provider of palliative and supportive care in Illinois, recognized the recruiting challenges that a nationwide nursing shortage would present, it turned to the college to explore a solution.

The two organizations have teamed to launch the JourneyCare CNA to Nursing Apprenticeship Program, designed to offer up to 10 certified nursing assistants employed by JourneyCare the opportunity to become registered nurses upon successful completion of the program. JourneyCare will fund the apprentices’ tuition, fees, books and salary.

“Harper’s exceptional reputation for nursing education and innovation in developing apprenticeship programs to meet the needs of local employers makes the college a natural partner in pioneering apprenticeships for on-the-job educational experiences for the next generation of our healthcare workforce,” said Dr. Venoncia M. Baté-Ambrus, founding director of the Hunter Family Foundation Workforce Development Initiative at JourneyCare.

In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a national workforce shortage of 1.1 million nurses. To help tackle those recruiting challenges, the JourneyCare Foundation was charged with finding philanthropic partners and creative models for addressing this workforce need. To date, JourneyCare Foundation President Joseph Matty said more than $1 million has been secured to support the Hunter Family Foundation Workforce Development Initiative, which will help fund the Harper apprenticeship program and others.

It will be valuable for CNAs to become RNs to support JourneyCare’s own employees in pursuit of their higher education and career aspiration goals, while supporting the organization’s efforts to fill key clinical vacancies, Dr. Baté-Ambrus said. The apprenticeship program will also help diversify its healthcare workforce.

Throughout the fall semester, CNAs have been receiving information on the program, preparatory-testing skills needed to pass Harper’s entrance exam, and customized professional development training on diversity, equity and inclusion; change management; and self-care and work-school-life balance to prepare them for a return to an academic environment. The selected apprentices will begin their prerequisite classes in January 2021 and embark on the six-semester program.

CNAs will come throughout the JourneyCare organization, which serves 10,000 patients and their families annually across 13 counties. JourneyCare’s physical locations include the Pepper Family Hospice CareCenter and administrative offices in Barrington; the Arlington Heights CareCenter inside Northwest Community Hospital; its headquarters and the Marshak Family Hospice CareCenter in Glenview; and the Ada F. Addington CareCenter inside Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

According to one apprenticeship program applicant, “Although I have been able to realize and embrace what kind of learner I am, work and life have gotten in the way of returning to school. This is a fantastic program that solves many problems related to working full time and going to school.”

Dr. Michelé Smith, vice president of workforce solutions at Harper College, said the partnership with JourneyCare illustrates how the college works to find solutions for employers’ workforce challenges. In the past five years, Harper has launched apprenticeships in more traditional fields such as CNC Precision Machining, Electromechanical Technician, Industrial Maintenance Mechanic and Supply Chain Management, as well as non-traditional fields including Banking and Finance, Cybersecurity/Networking, Graphic Arts Print Production, IT, and Marketing and Sales Management.

“Apprenticeships meet the needs of both employers and job-seekers, offering employers the opportunity to strengthen and build their workforce while providing apprentices with a path to a career while earning a salary and gaining real skills and knowledge,” Dr. Smith said. “Designing the JourneyCare apprenticeship program has truly been a collaborative effort, and we are fully committed to helping the new apprentices succeed and address JourneyCare’s needs.”

Last Updated: 8/23/21