Expanding the Talent Pipeline Through Apprenticeships

Cleveland Clinic programs lead to credentials and careers

Apprenticeships and internships

Apprenticeship programs are highly successful, with 92% of apprentices retaining employment after completion of their programs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Yet when most people think about the training model, they envision traditional trades such as welding, ironworking and plumbing. Cleveland Clinic’s Caregiver Apprenticeship Program, launched in 2021, highlights the breadth of opportunities available.

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“Our apprenticeships are learn-and-earn programs that combine meaningful on-the-job experience with aligned classroom learning,” says Gina Cronin, Chief Talent Officer at Cleveland Clinic. “They are an accelerant to build new and more diverse pipelines of talent.”

The healthcare system rolled out a pharmacy apprenticeship program in October 2021; the Information Technology Department followed suit in January 2022. The Finance Department and Buildings & Properties Department will offer apprenticeships later this year.

One model, many programs

Caregivers enroll in 12-month apprenticeships in cohorts of four to 10 people. They are paid as full-time employees, working in the field with the support of a manager, and they receive education that leads to a credential or associate degree.

While the framework for each program is the same, the details differ by department and role. The pharmacy program includes the following:

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  • Training and working in specific areas of the pharmacy (60%).
  • Completing four-hour simulations across 18 areas and didactic coursework (40%).
  • Online didactic modules on drug therapy, pharmaceutical calculations, automation, sterile and non-sterile compounding and more.
  • Program accreditation through the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

Apprentices sit for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board Exam and, upon passing, are graduates of the Cleveland Clinic School of Pharmacy Technology. They can register as a certified pharmacy technician with the Ohio Board of Pharmacy.

The Pharmacy Apprenticeship Program enrolled two cohorts of nine each in October and November 2021. The program is expected to welcome new apprentices every four to six weeks.

The backing of a support system

The overarching goal of Cleveland Clinic’s apprenticeship model is to establish a diverse and inclusive workforce pipeline for middle-skill positions by employing, upskilling and promoting 500 underrepresented workers a year. In 2021, 52% of the apprentices in the pharmacy program were Black.

“We are providing a lot of wraparound support for our apprentices, particularly because we want to hire underrepresented talent who may not have had the social support or formal education to know how to thrive in the workplace,” says Cronin.

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The support system for each apprenticeship program at Cleveland Clinic includes an executive sponsor, a preceptor who manages the program, a credentialing lead, a human resources business partner, a representative from talent acquisition, a coach from the Mandel Global Leadership & Learning Institute and department mentors.

Advice for creating apprenticeships

Building an apprenticeship program in healthcare may seem daunting. Cronin offers advice:

  • Look to the leaders. “Go out to folks who have done this well,” she says. “There are so many fantastic models from a variety of industries. Learn from them what has done well and what they would have done differently.”
  • Don’t build it on your own. “It takes leader investment and a functioning team across all areas to make apprenticeships work,” says Cronin. The support system cited above represents the key players who should be involved.
  • Work together on key components. Use your team to decide each program’s scope, candidate eligibility, job description and educational curriculum.
  • Build in routine touch points. Apprentices should receive informal and formal performance reviews, as well as ongoing support and mentoring. In addition, ask apprentices for feedback on the program, then use their input to tweak the program as needed.

Cleveland Clinic has plans to build on its early successes and expand the Caregiver Apprenticeship Program.

“Once we get our sea legs under us, then we’ll be ready to take the Caregiver Apprenticeship Program to our regional hospitals in Ohio and Cleveland Clinic Florida,” says Cronin. “We are so excited about the opportunities that apprenticeships present for caregivers to develop skills in jobs that offer family-sustaining wages and grow professionally.”