Department of Labor & Industry Acting Secretary Nancy Walker announced Wednesday nearly $700,000 in grant funding to three Nursing Pathway Apprenticeship Industry Partnership programs across Pennsylvania.
The Berks County Workforce Development Board will receive $176,155 to partner with the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance and Reading Area Community College (RACC) to launch a new Greater Reading Healthcare Connections Industry Partnership, with a focus on creating strategies for employers to develop career pathways, establishing industry credentials to education partner(s), and designing and implementing a Registered Apprentice Home Health Aide to LPN career pathway.
This grant program, as part of the COVID-19 Nursing Workforce Initiative (NWI) and funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), blends the registered apprenticeship and industry partnership models and is designed to address the many workforce challenges in communities most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Health care workers gave Pennsylvania so much these past few years – life-saving care, long hours, and an unparalleled commitment to service,” Acting Secretary Walker said.
“To ensure this critical workforce remains strong, this grant program will help relieve ongoing staffing challenges and provide long-term support to the nursing profession by building a pipeline of skilled health care workers in underserved communities. Health care workers – particularly nurses – certainly deserve our gratitude. They also deserve progressive action that ensures health care settings are fully staffed and resourced to meet the needs of their communities.”
The NWI, introduced by State Senator Maria Collett in September 2021, was created to support individuals within the nursing industry as they navigated the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and continues today to incentivize individuals to pursue careers in the nursing industry at a time when shortages in that field are at critically-low levels.
To help combat the problem and fill vacancies, this blended approach will allow each program to serve at least 40 new apprentices during the grant period, the majority of which will remain with the employer who provided training upon completion of the program. To ensure lasting impact, the overarching goal for programs developed under this initiative will be to serve at least 20 apprentices annually beyond the grant period.
With Nursing Pathway grant funding, distributed by L&I’s Apprenticeship and Training Office (ATO), three local workforce development boards will collaborate with community partners, organizations, sponsors, and regional industry partnerships to create, manage, and maintain nursing apprenticeship and industry partnership programs within low- and moderate-income communities, as well as recruit and retain qualified health care professionals across the Commonwealth.
This grant program also targets individuals in underrepresented populations, including women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, veterans, individuals who speak English as a second language, and individuals facing significant barriers to employment.
Specifically, these programs help prepare individuals for positions as home health aides, certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses, and other in-demand jobs to help relieve staffing shortages in hospitals and health care facilities.