Personal Care Aide Certificate: Re-imagining Apprenticeships for Nevada’s New Economy

August 23, 2017 - 08:58
Young hand holding elderly woman's hands

“Maybe traditional college isn’t for you.”

That’s not exactly a statement one would expect from a major university, but at UNLV Continuing Education, we hope to be saying it more often. The alternative? Registered apprenticeship.

The President has been talking about expanding apprenticeship programs. So has Governor Sandoval. So what are registered apprenticeships all about?

For many skill-based careers where competency is gained with repetition and experience, a traditional post-secondary college program isn’t necessarily the best entry point. Apprenticeships blend classroom instruction with hands-on learning under experienced mentors. Progress is marked by education hours, yes, but more importantly tracked as an apprentice demonstrates mastery of a progression of skills. Registered apprenticeship is a solution and can be integrated into existing training and human resources development strategies.

Truckee Meadows Community College received a $2.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor in 2015 to expand apprenticeship opportunities in the state. The resulting Nevada’s Apprenticeship Project plans to train more than 300 apprentices in Nevada for high-skilled, hands-on, in-demand jobs.

UNLV Continuing Education is pleased to announce the launch of its first apprenticeship program under Nevada’s Apprenticeship Project, the Personal Care Aide Apprenticeship Certificate program. As America’s population ages, the demand for assistance with daily tasks is expected to rise. Sometimes just a little help can make independent living possible for an elderly or disabled person. When family members, friends, or neighbors are not available to provide needed support for independent living, a personal care aide becomes an essential part of a care team. Due to the hands-on nature of the job and a shortage of available professionals, the Personal Care Aide program was an ideal test for an apprenticeship program.

Personal Care Aide apprentice applicants are screened and hired through area employers. To begin, three employer partners will be accepting apprentice applications. Comfort Keepers of Henderson, BrightStar of Summerlin, and Visiting Angels in both Henderson and Summerlin will take on their first apprentices this fall. Applicants selected as a good fit complete 100 hours of personal care aide education and 15 hours training in effective communication and report writing prior to their apprenticeship. Tuition for this portion of the training is available for those who qualify through Workforce Connections partner agencies or Nevada’s Apprenticeship Project. 

After successful completion of the initial classroom requirements, new personal care aides transition into their paid apprenticeship with their partnering employer, where they continue to master skills under a mentor. Additional course requirements during the apprenticeship phase vary by employer, but may include CPR/AED/first aid training, employee orientation with the company, and focused in-service training for 144 hours total classroom hours. On-the-job training follows a competency-based model where students demonstrate mastery of required skills as they progress through the program. Apprentices can expect to work as an apprentice for up to six months and then will transition into regular employee status. Students who successfully complete the program will earn a national credential from the Department of Labor and a Personal Care Aide Certificate from UNLV Continuing Education.

Apprenticeships can be a win-win scenario for both employers and the apprentice. Apprenticeship programs offer numerous benefits to employers compared to conventional hiring and training practices:

  • Training customized to your business
  • Blend of classroom and on-the-job training
  • Enhanced employee loyalty and retention rates
  • Safer workplace
  • Stable pipeline of qualified workers
  • Increased transfer of knowledge from experienced mentors to apprentices
  • Financial assistance with apprentice training costs

From the apprentice perspective, benefits include:

  • Earn as you learn. An apprenticeship is a job, so apprentices are paid as they train.
  • Enhanced loyalty and retention. Apprentices value the investment their employer is making in their career. Working with mentors builds strong relationships with coworkers.
  • No educational debt. Education is built into the program, so there is no tuition to pay.
  • Apprentices earn a national credential from the Department of Labor upon completion of their program.

Prospective Personal Care Aide apprentice sites and prospective students can reach program coordinator Jodi Gilliland by phone at 702-895-5099 or via email at jodi.gilliland@unlv.edu to request more details about the program. Minimum hiring requirements are listed on our website. UNLV Continuing Education hopes to expand apprenticeship opportunities it offers through Nevada’s Apprenticeship Project in the coming months. Stay tuned for details.