Raymond Peters – just a month into his Assistant Case Manager Registered Apprenticeship – is already learning to master the unique skills he needs to serve his clients, who are experiencing homelessness.
“The language you use is so important. You have to relate to them as a person first, identifying their needs. Each client is different.”
Peters is charting an ambitious path. After experiencing housing insecurity himself eight years ago, he is simultaneously pursuing his apprenticeship and a college degree in Rehabilitation Services. On-the-job experience through Peters’ apprenticeship has made all the difference, he says, in helping him excel in the classroom. Peters is one of 12 apprentices in the first cohort of a new Assistant Case Manager Registered Apprenticeship Program, launched through a unique partnership between Worker Education and Resource Center (WERC), the LA County Department of Health Services, and Volunteers of America. WERC is a non-profit organization that for 20 years has provided high-quality workforce development programs in partnership with public service and safety net employers.
The work of an Assistant Case Manager Apprentice may include collecting data from clients, writing reports, creating a case plan and referring the client to other services. Many clients have other co-morbid risk factors for homelessness that need to be addressed, such as mental illness and/or substance abuse. By using motivational interviewing techniques and other skills learned in the Registered Apprenticeship, Peters is learning to gain the trust of his clients so they can together move toward a pathway to permanent housing.
“It’s important to gently guide the client to focus on immediate needs for health and safety,” Peters said. “For instance, I had one client who was very focused on the broader issue of homelessness in San Francisco. We have to recognize clients may have bigger goals, it’s very sensitive. But we want to make sure they are safe and healthy first, before they can pursue those goals.”
Apprentices earn while they learn, starting out at the Los Angeles minimum wage of $14.25. The Registered Apprenticeship program conducts a competency test at six months, and those who score well earn a raise to $14.75. All apprentices have another six months to gain the skills needed to earn the Assistant Case Manager credential.
Funding for the program comes from what’s known as “Measure H”, a voter-approved quarter-cent sales tax dedicated exclusively to providing services and programs to prevent and fight homelessness. In May, the city approved a $460 million “Measure H” spending plan for this fiscal year.
The program is designed to place apprentices into entry-level Assistant Case Manager roles, with the opportunity to quickly advance to Case Managers. The pay for Case Managers varies, some start at $20 to $22 per hour. This career pathway can lead to jobs in Intensive Case Management Services, or as a program manager at social services agencies. Some apprentices may decide to go back to school to become licensed social workers.
Raymond Peters says the training has been an invaluable start to a career of helping clients get the support they need to get on a track to future success.
“If I didn't have this training, going into the job market, I’d have to gain the hands-on experience over a few years. Now I know with confidence that I will be well-equipped with both classroom and real-life education.”
EMT Registered Apprenticeship: Training The Next Wave of First Responders
There are many ways to build a rewarding career, and Registered Apprenticeship is one promising pathway. That's the motto of Kim Woods, Program Manager at Worker Education and Resource Center, Inc. (WERC) in Los Angeles.
"College isn't for everyone, and there are different ways to be smart and to succeed," Woods said.
She has proudly watched apprentices come from working low-wage jobs in fast food or retail, or from unemployment, to become Emergency Medical Technicians who have passed the rigorous national registry exam. As EMTs, graduates pursue a rewarding career, they give back to their communities, and they enjoy the status and respect awarded to first responders. These apprentices may also use the EMT apprenticeship program as a springboard to other roles such as firefighters.
WERC has so far sponsored three cohorts of EMT apprentices, including a total of 50 apprentices. More than 80 percent of those, 41, took the national registry exam and passed. This result far exceeds the statistics on graduates of traditional EMT programs.
Here's why: traditional programs are 21 consecutive days long. It's a tremendous amount of information to absorb in a short amount of time, and very little time to get a feel for the real-world experience of being an EMT. Many graduates had to take the class multiple times before they were able to pass the national registry exam, at a cost of $1000 per class.
The WERC apprenticeship, by contrast, spreads these 21 days out over five months. Three days a week are spent in the classroom and two are spent participating in ride alongs with firefighters or ambulance companies.
The program is delivered at no cost to the apprentice, due to partnerships between players ranging from private companies like McCormick Ambulance, to public agencies such as the LA County Fire Department, and community groups like the LA county Stentorians, an organization of African-American firefighters. A Baptist church contributes free space to hold the classes. Finally, the County Board of Supervisors offers a stipend to apprentices, to help make the programs as accessible as possible.
One objective of the program is to increase the diversity of EMTs and down the road, to help expand diversity among firefighters, both in terms of gender and race. The apprenticeship program is already making an impact on this front.
For instance, while the LA Fire Department includes only two percent women firefighters, seven of the women EMT apprenticeship graduates are now pursuing firefighter training. This would be a tremendous economic boost, enabling them to earn six-figure salaries and serve their communities.
WERC's EMT program has been life-changing in other ways too. Woods appreciates hearing from past graduates about how they have put what they have learned into action.
"They have some amazing stories, like one graduate who loaded patients on to a helicopter for an evacuation," Woods said. "Some of these stories are miraculous and some are heartbreaking. But our graduates have the skills and training to do their best no matter what."