The deadline is quickly approaching to apply for a program that will fast-track training for caregivers and pay for that training, as well as the costs of the associated testing.
Applications will be accepted starting Thursday.
The Department of Health Services developed the program in partnership with nursing homes, LeadingAge Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Health Care Association and the Wisconsin Technical College System. It will offer training and testing at no cost to students and also implement a $500 retention bonus for nurse aides after six months on the job at a nursing home.
As many as 40 spots will be available through Gateway Technical College, according to Sara Skowronski, nursing assistant program instructor at Gateway. More spots could potentially become available depending on local demand.
The first offering at GTC will run July 16 to Aug. 16, Monday through Thursday.
In an effort to attract and retain more nursing home caregivers, Wisconsin launched the Caregiver Career Program. DHS received federal approval for the $2.3 million program designed to add up to 3,000 nurse aides to the workforce in this high demand field.
Nurse aides provide basic care for residents in nursing homes, performing duties from feeding to bathing to dressing.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment of nursing assistants will grow 17 percent between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than the average for all occupations, which is largely due to aging baby boomers who are increasing demand for patient care.
Skowronski said that, locally, the jobs pay well, with certified nursing assistants earning as much as $18 an hour during the week, with weekend pay reaching $20 an hour.
In Wisconsin, more than 87,000 residents live in long-term and residential care facilities. That’s an increase of 18 percent since 2003, yet one in seven caregiving staff positions is unfilled.
“We offer a similar program year round,” Skowronski said, “but this is a standalone program.”
She said Gateway’s program is 72 hours of classroom and lab study followed by 48 hours of on-site clinical work. Gateway typically invites HR directors from local nursing homes and care facilities to the final day of classes in its programs, where many students walk away with job offers.
With the state picking up the tab for the classes and required testing, participants can save as much as $1,000 by applying.
A website provides additional information on how to apply and the nursing homes that will participate in the retention bonus program. To learn more, visit www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/caregiver-career.