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CNA Apprenticeship Strengthens Nursing Staff

Two nursing home workers talking.

Apprenticeship programs, such as CCA’s Certified Nurse Assistant Registered Apprenticeship Program (CNA RAP), have proven to be a game-changer in preparing much-needed CNAs for the demanding roles they play within skilled nursing facilities. The earn-and-learn model inspires higher levels of performance amongst apprentices, increases productivity, and enhances their problem-solving ability. Because the apprentices become skilled, enculturated, engaged and loyal employees, apprenticeship programs can help reduce staff turnover and improve recruitment.

Since the first cohort of apprentices started their CNA training through CCA’s apprenticeship program earlier this year, 18 have been promoted to a CNA role and are now working at a partner facility. An additional 20 apprentices have completed their training and are either waiting for the results of their CNA certification exam or in the process of scheduling their exam date.

Duane Esquer, Nursing Home Administrator at College Vista Post Acute (a Sun Mar Healthcare facility) in Los Angeles, said, “The benefit of this apprenticeship program for our facility is that we get to increase our staffing so that we’re not struggling with turnover… This program has really had a positive effect on job satisfaction.”

Watch how the CNA Registered Apprenticeship Program has made an impact.

College Vista Post Acute’s parent company, Sun Mar Healthcare, is our inaugural corporate employer to partner with CCA for this apprenticeship program. In 2022, CCA received a $14 million High Road Training Partnership (HRTP) grant from the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB) to add 500 CNAs and 12 LVNs to the skilled nursing facility workforce in three years to help address an industry-wide staffing shortage. In partnership with employers and SEIU Local 2015, the apprenticeship program offers the CNA and LVN training at no cost to participants and guarantees them a job and wage increase when they pass their state exam.

Another employer group Pursue Healthcare also joined the partnership in 2023 and now has a few apprentices working as CNAs, with more are on track to complete classes, pass the state exam, and be promoted to CNA in the coming months. More employers are slated to join in 2024.

There is a clear demand for the training program: the wait list of interested candidates has grown to over 500.

Chrystal Miranda, an apprenticeship program graduate who is now a CNA at College Vista Post Acute, shares her journey: “I don’t think it would have been possible if I did not have this program. I have a daughter at home, so financial stability was always a top priority for me. It was really awesome that they were able to help me out. I didn’t have to worry about one thing or another. I could completely focus on just getting my studying done.”

Watch Chrystal’s story.

All tuition and related expenses are covered so participants do not pay for anything out of their own pockets. They also receive stipends to cover the cost of child care, transportation, and groceries so they can focus on learning in the classroom and practicing their skills during clinicals.

The apprenticeship program offers invaluable hands-on experience, allowing learners to work alongside experienced nursing staff. But the support doesn’t end there. CCA’s CNA program provides one-on-one mentorship to the newly promoted CNAs so they can build the confidence they need to excel in a healthcare setting. Aside from mentorship, the new CNAs also receive retention bonuses throughout their first six months of employment and access to free high-quality training through their SEIU 2015 Education Fund. They can access free continuing education classes, obtain their Restorative Nurse Assistant (RNA) Certificate, get certified in CPR, and many other trainings.

Duane Esquer said all the elements of the apprenticeship program – especially the partnership between the nursing home employers, the union, and CCA – greatly benefit the workers, the facilities and, most importantly, the residents.

“The students who then turn into Certified Nurse Assistants hit the ground running because they’ve had the education, they’ve had the training, they’ve been working directly with our current staff. So it flows very well,” Esquer says. “We’re invested in their success because when they win, we win, and at the end of the day, the residents win the most. They get caring individuals who want to be working in this industry, who want to be a CNA. And we’re so excited to see how this program will grow and continue to succeed and hopefully help other facilities and other companies, and at the end of the day give people opportunities in healthcare that they may have not had before.”

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