Oakland County debuts new medical apprenticeship program

By: Maddie Forshee | C&G Newspapers | Published May 8, 2018

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OAKLAND COUNTY — For those looking to make the move into the medical field, Oakland County has made it easier with a free apprenticeship program.

Oakland County Michigan Works! has partnered with the Henry Ford Health System, Oakland Community College and Henry Ford College to offer a free medical assistant apprenticeship program, the first of its kind in southeast Michigan. 

“Like all of our programs, we got approached by the industry,” said Irene Spanos, director of economic development and community affairs for Oakland County. “We identified the best route for filling those positions. We worked with the local colleges to form these apprenticeships. We act as the conduit between academia and industry.” 

The partnership combines classroom instruction and on-the-job training for candidates in the 15-week program. 

Medical assistants are a top, in-demand job in Oakland County, said Jennifer Llewellyn, director and manager of workforce development for Oakland County Michigan Works!

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for medical assistants across the country will grow by 23 percent through 2024. In Michigan, it’s expected that 720 medical assistant jobs will be added annually during that time. 

“Unemployment rates in Oakland County are very low right now, about 3.5 percent,” said Llewellyn. “The war on talent is very real for many of our industries, including health care. Many health care companies are seeing apprenticeships as a career pathway. It’s important to the health system to attract and train new talent.”

The program, which will accept 10 students at a time, takes the form of classes at OCC and HFC, as well as in a Henry Ford Health System facility. Apprentices will operate under the supervision of a mentor to provide quality patient care, including greeting and taking patients to exam rooms, taking and recording basic measurements from patients, and using computer charting systems.

“Henry Ford, like many other health systems, is focused on a pipeline of quality talent,” said Llewellyn. “From Oakland County’s perspective, our goal is to make sure we have a skilled workforce. We see apprenticeships as a great avenue for training residents and offering sustainable employment opportunities.” 

Applicants don’t have to have a medical background to apply for the apprenticeship. They must be at least 18 and have a high school diploma or a GED, and they must pass a criminal background check and pre-employment screening.

Applicants can have post-high school education, though it is not required. They also must be physically able to perform the job. 

Upon completion of the apprenticeship program, students receive a U.S. Department of Labor certificate and a certificate from the colleges. The DOL certificate allows apprentices to work anywhere in the country. 

Every student who goes through the apprenticeship program is guaranteed a job within the Henry Ford Health System. 

Once in a job, each new employee is required to pass a national certification examination. Once they are certified, they are eligible to become a bona fide medical assistant. Pay for the position is $15 per hour, with full benefits. 

For more information, visit www.advantageoakland.com.