(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com)– Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry Acting Secretary announced three Nursing Pathway Apprenticeship Industry Partnership programs will receive nearly $700,000 in grant funding.

The grants are part of the COVID-19 Nursing Workforce Initiative (NWI) and is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The program combines the registered apprenticeship and industry partnership models to address the extensive workforce challenges in communities most affected by the pandemic.

“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,” said Nancy Walker, Department of Labor & Industry Acting Secretary.

NWI was created to support people within the nursing industry to help navigate the pandemic and continues to incentivize careers in nursing while shortages in the field remain critical. The combined approach allows each program to serve at least 40 new apprentices during the grant period with the majority remaining with the employer that provided the training once they complete the program.

Long term, the goal for programs developed under the initiative is be able to serve at least 20 apprentices annually after the grant period.

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.

  • Berks County Workforce Development Board – $176,155– The board will partner with the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance and Reading Area College (RACC) to start a Greater Reading Healthcare Connections Industry Partnership and will focus on creating strategies for employers to develop career pathways, establish credentials to education partners and design and implement a Registered Apprentice Home Health Aide to LPN careers.
  • Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board (Allegheny County) – $176,155– Doing business as Partner4Work, they will use the funding to establish health care partnerships, expand community outreach between employers and potential workers, and promote apprenticeship opportunities in the health care industry, specifically preparing individuals for careers as Licensed Professional Nurses (LPN) and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA).
  • Workforce Solutions for North Central PA (Cameron, Clearfield, Elk, Jefferson, McKean and Potter counties) – $260,000– The organization will create a program to target people in low and moderate-income communities and offer opportunities competitive wages. The program will collaborate with employers and schools to help new and existing apprentices pursue a career.