Cindy Adams and Michelle Mitchell

In the wake of COVID-19, the long-standing demand for healthcare workers in our state has intensified. In 2021, there have been over 25,000 healthcare job openings in Marion County alone.

Even with a soft job market because of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare has not been able to find enough qualified workers to fill these critical positions. 

We must address the need for talent in healthcare – both in the short-term and over the next decade, as the demand for nurses, medical assistants and other healthcare workers is projected to grow. Other high-demand Indiana industries – such as financial services, information technology, logistics and advanced manufacturing – will also feel the pressure to find job-ready workers with the right training and skills as the economy starts to grow post-pandemic.

Meeting all of these talent demands requires creative new approaches to cultivating next-generation employees. That is why, at Ascension St. Vincent, we are excited to be among the founding cohort of 16 Central Indiana employers hiring high school students for youth apprenticeships, offering two to three years of paid, on-the-job training and advanced education. This initiative, called Modern Apprenticeship (MAP), was launched by Marion County’s workforce development board EmployIndy and talent and workforce development initiative Ascend Indiana. The program reflects a promising new approach for how Ascension St. Vincent, and other employers, can address immediate workforce development and staffing demands, advance our commitments to organizational equity and diversity, and build the next-generation workforce.

Through the program, companies onboard capable candidates in their junior year of high school. For their first two years, apprentices spend up to 24 hours per week in their jobs – roles that are carefully crafted with technical assistance support to ensure youth add value to the employer – while continuing their classroom learning. In the year following high school graduation, they focus primarily on their position within the company. 

After completing the program, apprentices earn a high school diploma, college credits and a nationally recognized credential. They emerge equipped to enter directly into the workforce, earn additional credentials or pursue a postsecondary degree. The value proposition for students is clear: Modern Apprenticeship provides them with in-demand skills that will help them build a strong foundation for success.

Along with the clear talent development benefits, youth apprenticeship programs also hold the power to bring more racially and ethnically diverse candidates into organizations, which is critically important to all of us.

That is why we have hired four apprentices to be part of our first cohort of Modern Apprenticeship, and we encourage our fellow healthcare providers to join as well. Employers can benefit from the mutual support their peer organizations provide as well as robust backing from EmployIndy and Ascend. This includes creating training plans for apprentices, supporting candidate recruitment, and providing ongoing training for apprentices once they are on the job.

COVID-19 has exacerbated the need for new approaches to recruiting and training talent in healthcare as well as other high-demand professions. Modern Apprenticeship offers a promising path to meet today’s workforce needs and position Central Indiana employers with the talent they need to thrive in the future.

Adams is Chief Nursing Officer at Ascension St. Vincent and a member of the Ascend Indiana Board of Directors. Mitchell is the Manager of Workforce Development at Ascension St. Vincent.