Silver Bells In The City - Photo Dave Trumpie <span class='image-credits'></span>

Special Report: Creative Approaches to Grow Health Care Careers

Stacy Caleb grew up watching her aunts and cousins work as nurses. In her family, if some was sick, someone always stepped up to help.

The compassion of her close knit upbringing, Caleb says, inspired her to pursue callings that serve people in need. In her 20's, she worked as a nanny. As she grew older, she branched out to broaden her caregiver skills.

“From a very early age, I loved doing things that help make people’s lives better,” Caleb reflects. “Being in the health care industry does that.”Students in Lansing Community Collage's classes - Photo Dave Trumpie

Caleb moved to Michigan from upstate New York two years ago, intent on resuming her education and using her skills in public health. While exploring how to finish her degree, Caleb also looked for a job in health care. She noticed the high demand for and shortages of skilled health care workers, and understood the career potential. A trip to Capital Area Michigan Works! showed her a new pathway.

In January 2018, Caleb became part of the first cohort of individuals participating in a creative path into Mid-Michigan’s health care job market: a registered apprenticeship. Based on the framework of skilled trades apprenticeships, the new program provides an effective, work-based training method that meets national standards, awards credentials, and involves a long-term commitment between the apprentice and employer.

In November, Caleb completed the academic portion of the intensely structured apprenticeship program for medical assistants that combined classroom instruction, on-site clinical work and job shadowing. She is now applying her skills by working at least 12 months with her employer sponsor: Capital Internal Medicine Associates

“Our intent is for apprentices to be long-term employees,” says Human Resources Director Gayle Wireman of CIMA. “In the past, we only participated in externships. This program allows us to train someone from the ground up. They’re not coming in with habits from another provider or school.”

Building alliances

Joe Winkiel at Capital Area Michigan Works! is on the forefront of expanding apprenticeship opportunities in Mid-Michigan beyond the traditional sectors of manufacturing. Alongside CAMW! apprenticeship coordinator Jay LaNew, Winkiel serves as the business services and apprenticeship liaison for the health care and IT sector. 

Winkiel is involved in the Capital Area Health Alliance on behalf of CAMW!—a partnership involving CAMW!, Lansing Community College and competing health care providers in the tri-county area. Members of CAHA acknowledge that Michigan will experience a surge of nearly 811,055 job openings through 2024, with 26 percent—or 212,247—in health care. Estimates are that more than 20,400 of the anticipated health care jobs will be in the area of medical assisting, with data on other in-demand health care jobs like home health aides, nurses and physician assistants cited in Gov. Rick Snyder’s Marshall Plan for Talent

Although promising, Winkiel says that the state’s current full employment rate of under 4 percent complicates the issue. When combined with shifting demographics, full employment can contribute to a shrinking pool of workers across all industries, particularly those in high demand.

“There is simply a huge talent shortage nationwide, in the state and locally,” says Winkiel. “And with historically low unemployment in the tri-county area, it adds to the difficulty of attracting and retaining skilled employees.”

Apprenticeships are among the solutions Michigan health care providers can apply to fill the talent gap. Winkiel says apprenticeships differ from internships, which are generally paid placements arranged by a school. With apprenticeships, participants are immersed in a work-based training program, with the end goal being national certification and commitment to the sponsor. Apprenticeships, too, are employer-driven, and in the case of health care, a creative approach to recruitment and retention. 

“Hospitals and other companies are starting to develop talent from within,” says Winkiel. “That’s important. If you start out with a company, you know the culture. An employee can start at the apprenticeship level and work their way up.” 

After months of planning, the CAHE launched the tri-county area’s first health care apprenticeship in January 2018. Participants focused on medical assisting, and were sponsored by three health care providers: McLaren, Sparrow and CIMA. In total, eight apprentices participated in the 46-week academic portion, which consisted of two days of classroom and lab instruction each week administered through the Business and Community Institute at Lansing Community College. Apprentices worked on-site on other days of the week. (See sidebar). In November, five apprentices went to work as full-time medical assistants at Sparrow, two at McLaren and one at CIMA. 

“Improved retention is a huge advantage to apprenticeships,” Winkiel says. “It’s a misconception that workers leave the company after serving as an apprentice. Most stay because they see the company is willing to invest in their training and their futures.”

Finding workers, filling need

Looking ahead, CAHE hopes to draw other area health care facilities to participate in the apprenticeship program, as well as to provide input on the area’s need for skilled workers. In addition to the two major health care systems serving Mid-Michigan, Winkiel says the tri-county area has up to 50 assisted living or extended care facilities, and nearly 100 home health care companies. All need skilled workers, with apprenticeships a vital tool for recruiting and retaining talent. 

The more organizations that join the CAHE, he says, the more possibilities exist for expanding apprenticeships beyond medical assisting into other high-demand health care occupations. More participation, too, opens up conversations that identify common needs, and foster cross-collaborations for other creative solutions for recruitment and retention. 

McLaren Director of Human Resources Sherry Shannon says apprenticeships are the perfect fit, and align with the health system’s strategic employment plan to pursue educational opportunities and partnerships. 

“Apprenticeships are the way of the future,” she says. “More employers will be looking at more programs that end in a vocational certification and employment as young people consider the increase in college costs.”

Shannon credits LCC’s BCI for taking the lead on the academic side, and CAMW! for helping to get the word out to other health care organizations on the value of apprenticeship programs. 

“This program resulted from a committee that looked at workforce needs,” she says. “We identified a community employment issue and we came up with a way to fill an increasing employment gap. It’s an example of how area hospitals and health organizations can work together to create opportunities for our community and our citizens.”

To find out more about the Capital Area Health Alliance, as well as programs for recruiting and retaining skilled health care workers that serve the greater community, visit


Ann Kammerer is a freelance writer in Greater Lansing and writes occasional features for Capital Gains. 

Photos © Dave Trumpie

Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.

This article was sponsored by Capital Area Michigan Works.
The classroom side of healthcare apprenticeships
The classroom side of healthcare apprenticeships
Drawing on talented faculty, Lansing Community College’s Business and Community Institute provided the academic instruction needed for the Capital area’s first cohort of eight medical assistant apprentices from McLaren Greater Lansing, Sparrow Health Systems, and Capital Internal Medicine Associates. BCI’s Business Development Manager Luanne Bibbee discusses the basics behind LCC’s venture into health care apprenticeships with an alliance of health care providers. 

Q: What is the demand for health care workers? And for medical assistants in particular?

A: The healthcare industry is experiencing a talent shortage as demographics drive demand. Projections are that Michigan will have more than 210,000 job openings in healthcare fields through 2024.

When we looked a little closer at U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, we saw that about 20,000 of those projected job openings would be for medical assistants. More specifically, about 720 MA jobs will be added each year through 2024, reflecting a 23 percent growth in the medical assisting field.

That’s a big talent gap to fill. As a member of the Capital Area Health Alliance, LCC’s BCI worked with health care employers in mid-Michigan and determined that registered apprenticeships provided a time-tested way to recruit and develop talent. 

Q: Why are apprenticeships suitable for the healthcare industry?

A: Although most of us don’t associate apprenticeships with health care, we’ve seen direct parallels between the course work and field training already required for health care jobs. Both Grand Rapids and Detroit launched MA apprenticeship programs in 2016 that served as successful models for our program. 

While some employers were concerned about the initial investment, classroom training accounts for about 15 percent of the cost. The remaining cost consisted of wages and benefits which would have been paid to a non-apprenticed hire. Also, apprenticeships and on-the-job training programs are proliferating as more younger workers opt for vocational certifications over expensive college degrees.

Q: How is the academic component structured?

A: The MA Apprenticeship program consists of 736 hours over 46 weeks. That includes 208 hours of lecture and 368 lab hours delivered through LCC’s Health and Human Services Division. Apprentices also complete 160 hours of practicum at the employer’s site. The program is consistent with the appropriate industry review boards, and covers 239 core competencies. The 2018 program was LCC’s first apprenticeship program in health care, and is now among mix of registered apprenticeship programs we coordinate with the U.S. Department of Labor. A second cohort is slated to begin January 2019.