A Win-Win: Home Health Aide Training Program Creates Better Care for Patients, Better Jobs for Workers
by Martha Ross, Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings Institution
An earlier post in the Health360 blog noted that one of the implications of the U.S.’s aging population is increasing demand for long-term care. Occupations such as personal care aides, nursing assistants, and home health aides all have strong projected job growth. And yet, although these direct care positions are foundational to providing high-quality services to the elderly and people with disabilities, they typically pay low wages, do not require much education and training, and experience high turnover.
A variety of initiatives around the country are taking different approaches to improve the skills of direct care workers, and not incidentally, job quality as well.
One such initiative is the Advanced Home Care Aide Apprenticeship operated by the SEIU  Training Partnership in Washington state. The Training Partnership, an independent labor-management organization, launched the first registered apprenticeship program for home care workers in 2012 and has since graduated 215 students with another 100 currently enrolled. The apprenticeship provides 75 hours of training required by the state for most new aides, another 70 hours of advanced training, and 12 hours of peer mentoring from an experienced home care aide. Employers pay apprentices their regular wages (an average of $12 per hour) during training. Apprentices earn a raise of 25 cents per hour upon completing the first 75 hours of training and passing the state certification exam and another 25 cents per hour upon completing the apprenticeship.
I had an opportunity to discuss the program with the Training Partnership’s Executive Director, Charissa Raynor. Below is a brief Q&A.
Q. The Apprenticeship is described as “competency-based.” What does that mean, and why is it important?
A. In a competency based education program, students progress to more advanced work when they demonstrate mastery of a specific set of skills. Students move through the training at their own pace. Those who need more time take more time, and those who have already mastered specific competencies (as measured through high-fidelity assessments) do not waste time or money sitting through unnecessary training — particularly important for working adults.