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Mark Beaufait, apprenticeship director for the Healthcare Apprenticeship Consortium, joins Jessica Langley-Loep and Mel Cochran from National Healthcareer Association to discuss how his program is helping to fill the need for skilled medical assistants in Washington. In this episode you can learn how the apprenticeship model is benefitting students, employers and educators.

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Introduction: Welcome to access on air from NHA. This podcast is dedicated to providing educators and employers of frontline healthcare workers with expert perspective on trends impacting and elevating the industry. These discussions can help you achieve your goals as you continue to pave pathways toward professional success for those working in allied health. Thanks for listening.

Jessica Langley-Loep: Welcome everyone. We're excited to have you here and joining our podcast today. Today, we're going to focus on one of our exciting articles that will be highlighted in this year's publication of access, which is an allied health journal is published annually by NHA. The article of interest today is how apprenticeships are filling the need for high skilled healthcare workers. And I have two amazing individuals joining us today to help us talk about this one is our own Mel Cochran. She's a senior certification specialist and does a lot of work with clients that develop and implement apprenticeship programs. And then we also have Mark Beaufait. He is the apprenticeship director at health career fund in Washington. And Mark, I will let you introduce yourself a little bit more and tell us about your current role and the experience that you have in the apprenticeship space.

Mark Beaufait: So my name is Mark Beaufait. I am the apprenticeship director for the healthcare apprenticeship consortium which in Washington, which is a group of, of employers and labor, but not just union labor. They have come together with the state and the governor's office to stand up a multi occupational health care apprenticeships in our area. And ultimately beyond our state as director, I'm the lead administrator for the program from enrolling apprentices to working on and helping to coordinate our RSI or classroom and lab providers to standing up additional occupations and working with employers to get them online. And so I've about eight years, nine years now in apprenticeship and a technical background before that is that kind of infill what you need.

Jessica Langley-Loep: That's great. Thanks so much. And Mel also, thanks for joining us as well. I'm going to have you kind of jump in here and start us off. First of all, why is it important and why are we writing about apprenticeships? What is the need that we are seeing for having this kind of alternate training module and specifically, why are we seeing that in, in healthcare?

Mel Cochran: Great question. There have been so many changes in the educational and employer space in the past couple of years, we've seen a really big shift in the demand for medical assistants primarily because of the baby mover, baby boomer population obviously entering the later stages of life and needing more care, but also because there has been a pivotal switch from a fee for service to value based service for the healthcare organizations where they're placing a lot more importance on some of those allied health professionals to make sure that they're working at the top of their license and to not put so much of those tasks on the physicians themselves. And we've also seen a little bit of a decrease in the, for profit educational sector which was a key contributor to those health science educations. And so there's a, this growing need for more and more allied health professionals. And then coupled with the fact that there isn't as much supply going into the industry is really the reason why there's been a lot more talking to how to fill that skill gap.

Jessica Langley-Loep: Great. And Mark, how about your perspective kind of on the employer union and workforce side?

Mark Beaufait: Well I think that the, one of the key changes that has happened is that you know, young people coming out of high school may not be going into school right away, or they may be doing taking other fields. And so they're not immediately going into some of the healthcare careers that they had been in the past and as a result and with the declining for their portion of the population too. But as a result the programs that have not been filled and the demand is, is considerably high for both MAs and nurses in the state of Washington and elsewhere are definitely by far the biggest occupations. So there's been a turn to looking for adult learners both individuals who are already employed in the healthcare sector and have experience with what it means to work in a, in a clinic or a hospital and know the whole team system.

Mark Beaufait: And, and that's an, that's a real value added for those that can then go on into an apprenticeship and related to that for either of those inside the incumbents in healthcare or those outside is there are a large number of highly capable adults who need to maintain their income while they go to school. And so you know, as Mel kind of commented on that those individuals are not able to go to school full time. And so a full time ma program will not just will never fit with for them, whereas the apprenticeship where they're working full time and going to school either with some of the schooling after hours or a best practice that we do during the working hours for eight hours of the week they're able to continue work and advance their careers along a really neat pathway.

Jessica Langley-Loep: I think that's a perfect segue into what is the value that apprenticeships bring. So if you could just briefly talk about some of the core components of apprenticeship program, why that's seen as a positive, and those things are leading it to gain popularity across the country. So kind of let's hit on a couple of those and then Mel will ask your perspective as well.

Mark Beaufait: So as mentioned, it allows adult learners to maintain employment and earn while they learn or, and continue to work. Some of the other things that are kind of interesting is that so apprenticeship they're the individuals are working roughly somewhere between five to seven times, their amount of class time. And so in essence, their externship, while they're out in practice in a clinic in a hospital is far larger and longer than it is. If you're taking an externship from a a regular academic program. And so they learn the employers methodologies, they learn to work with their employers team and they also get a full year or more, but roughly a year's worth of experience of learning on the job. So that on the job learning is, is a key component. One item that isn't always referenced, but from the employer standpoint there are mentors preceptors sometimes called coaches as well, that work with the the apprentices in whatever healthcare occupation it is from pharmacy tech to medical assistance.

Mark Beaufait: But in terms of talking with about medical assistants, these are mentor preceptors that are working with the new apprentices as the apprentices come up to speed. And, and then you know, advance the apprentices along. And interestingly engaging the mentor preceptors from the employer standpoint, leads to higher retention. It's documented that you end up with higher retention and higher job engagement of the mentor preceptors. And as a result, the impact of an apprenticeship program on an employer's workforce is actually double that of just the new apprentices alone, because they're retaining and advancing and training the mentor preceptors along with the apprentices and, and both the apprentices, the mentors spin up and become within four months to six months are substantially productive and then their, their return turns around for the employer. So that's the that's kind of the popularity, is it, is it brings people in who wouldn't otherwise be available to fill openings. And then it also helps the employer with retaining their individuals, training them the way they want.

Jessica Langley-Loep: Yeah. What a great list of advantages there that come out of implementing these apprenticeship programs. You mentioned that they do get classroom or didactic training as part of a of apprenticeship program. A big component is the, on the job kind of externship mentorship, preceptor that they obtained from that as well. And then the last piece Mel, I'm going to kick over to you oftentimes is the awarding or gaining of a industry credential. And we know even currently, as we speak, there's some transitioning happening in this particular space between registered apprenticeship programs and industry recognized apprenticeship programs. So Mel, talk a little bit with us about the value that those credentials bring, because we know that's really the part that NHA helps with throughout this process.

Mel Cochran: Yeah, absolutely. So part of the benefit of these apprenticeships is, you know, when you're having allied health professionals go through training, all of them look a little bit different, right? It depends on the it depends on the provider of that educational component. And it depends on the individual itself and what they retain. And so one way you can quantify, or at least make sure that there is a level playing field when it comes in terms of competencies learned from the program is by having that third party validation, which is obviously provided by NHA through our eight nationally accredited allied health certifications, super happy to say that we've been working with Mark and his cohort up in Washington, and they've incorporated the allied health certifications as part of the programmatic outcomes for his group. But we also have the supporting supplemental resources that help candidates get a better idea of, of what's on the exam prior to even fitting and what their risk level looks like.

Jessica Langley-Loep: Great. And Mark, can you just share with our listeners what you see in terms of feedback that you get from employers around the value of national certifications is because we know a lot of allied health professions are not state or federally regulated. So where does certification come into play and what, what does that kind of give in terms of assurance to employers?

Mark Beaufait: Well speaking to medical assisting, of course our primary utterances in Washington, where they, that is a certification internal to the state, but it relies upon a national certified test of which the NHA CCMA exam qualifies. And and we find even among, I think even without that, and then in talking about with Idaho, Oregon, and California affiliates, that they, that those employers are pretty much looking for a national tested certification for their medical assistance that the system is evolving to that being sort of a foundational credential with, or without a state credential that picks it up. You know, similarly in for pharmacy tech the state here is regulated many pharmacy course, many regulated, but then they pick up again on a national a national certification testing regime. And so I would say in almost all of the material fields and even CNA is going to be more standardized, but with the recent developments that the national credential is kind of a, just one of the keys to the kingdom.

Jessica Langley-Loep: Great. Thanks. I'll open this up to both of you next with your experience in your work, in the apprenticeship space, how do you think that apprenticeships across the country are evolving? And do you think I know data supports that it is growing exponentially, but how do you feel is kind of the next wave or what's, what's the future of apprenticeships look like?

Mel Cochran: Yeah. Thanks Jessica, for that question. So Mark hope you don't mind. I'll jump in here and answer first. I think it's super important to look at the historic trends. So in the apprentice national growth rate, it's been growing at a 68% year over year since 2013. And so there have been over 1200 new apprenticeship programs created in the last five years. The biggest reason for that is because it's starting to expand into different industries, obviously healthcare being one of them. Actually in February of this year, the DOL awarded nearly a hundred million dollars to 28 apprenticeship partners to support the large scale expansion of apprenticeships. And so not only is there obviously a need for us to address the skill gap, it's also being funded from the top down, which is great to see. And because of the whole the whole transitioned from the construction or trades industries into more of the nontraditional like health care space, there's been a lot of discussion on how can we make the apprenticeship model scale or meet the demands of these different industries.

Mel Cochran: And so we're seeing a lot more of that discussion going on with death. Like you had mentioned previously the Iraq, so focusing more on what makes sense for that specific industry and whether or not the time constraint is necessary, or if it's some sort of competency based measurement that they have, the tool that they need. So in the near future, I see a a partnerships definitely expanding aggressively because of the benefits that Mark mentioned earlier, I think retention is, is a huge point. I think the statistic is about 91% are retained nine months after they start if they're part of an apprenticeship program. So that is a huge, huge win for workforce boards for employers and for the person themselves, obviously. And then we'll, we're also going to see this transition a little bit more into the healthcare space as the eye reps develop a little bit further and the, the policies or, or requirements of that registered apprenticeship program are meeting the demands of the industry specifically.

Jessica Langley-Loep: Great, thanks, Mark. What do you feel like is the next step in apprenticeship evolution?

Mark Beaufait: Actually there's probably several, but the main ones are I think following along with what Mel mentioned is scaling and to which I would add sustainability. It does look like the state and local governments, as well as the as well as the department of labor will be funding this kind of training and long range, which works to the benefit of the candidates as well as the employers. And so that's, that's a key sustainability. I think, you know, the pendulum goes back and forth somewhat in terms of, of looking at workforce both from the candidate side and the employer side. And I think there's a recognition now that, that, that, you know, a year's worth of experience takes a year to get. And so you, you can't just hire people off the street that don't have a credential.

Mark Beaufait: You, you know, if they're not available, it takes some time to produce those. So there's a bit more, I think, of a recognition that time takes time. And and so I think as that grows among employers, and then even among candidates that are working their way up, the pathways from incumbent healthcare working it'll be a more sustainable process. There's a kind of a saying that goes with that, which is if there's two good times to plant and all of orchard 30 years ago and today. And so the answer is to keep working on it. And even in these COVID times part of the future is watering those, all the trees.

Jessica Langley-Loep: That's a great analogy and you're right. Apprenticeships have been around for an ever forever and have been proved, proven successful throughout history. And it's kind of coming around full circle again. And I know the department of labor and other workforce development organizations are really supporting the goal that apprenticeships are trying to accomplish to meet the workforce shortages and the skills gaps that exist across our country today. Mel, Mark, thank you so much for your time today. This was really great information. We want to encourage everyone to check out NHAS publication of access this year, and specifically the apprenticeship article. You can always find those through our website or our home page, which is NHA now.com. If you also go under our research and case studies, there's some really great examples of how Mel has worked with some of our partner clients within apprenticeship programs and how they kind of went through the process of developing and implementing certifications within these healthcare apprenticeship programs. And there's some really great stories there. So again, both of you, thanks so much, we appreciate your expertise and we thank you so much for your time today. Thank you.

 

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