Medical assistant apprenticeship program recognized by U.S. Department of Labor

The medical assistant apprenticeship program at Washington University in St. Louis has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor as a model program. As part of the recognition, the program has been dubbed an ambassador and will serve as a model program in that role, sharing its experiences through a national network and collaborating with the labor department to champion further apprenticeship opportunities elsewhere.

Ambassadors promote the benefits of registered apprenticeships, which include paid training with raises, classroom instruction and credentials that are recognized nationally. Ambassadors also work to increase apprenticeship opportunities for people from historically underserved populations and communicate the business benefits of registered apprenticeships to help fill vacancies in a variety of high-demand industries such health care, construction and hospitality. Ambassadors accomplish these goals by starting additional apprenticeship programs, hiring new apprentices, and holding outreach and training events to help other business, labor and education leaders launch similar programs.

Washington University launched its medical assistant apprenticeship program in 2018 to spur interest in the field and fill crucial medical assistant openings with people who otherwise might not be able to access such training. Medical assistants take patients’ vital signs, draw blood and administer vaccines. They also schedule appointments, fill out insurance forms and coordinate laboratory services.

“We are proud to be part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s ambassador program,” said Apryle Cotton, Washington University assistant vice chancellor for human resources. “Washington University recognizes the value and importance of providing on-the-job training, diversifying our WashU community and supporting the St. Louis workforce. Our apprenticeship training program has been incredibly successful, and we are excited to expand the program in the near future. This recognition cements our commitment to our employees’ growth and learning experiences and to helping our St. Louis community and partners thrive.”

Local and federal programs cover the tuition for the 12-week program. Apprentices are hired by School of Medicine departments as full-time employees who receive benefits. They are in class four hours a day and learn hands-on skills in clinics the remaining time.

At the end of the program, apprentices can sit for their certification exams. When apprentices pass the exam, they are given a job title and receive small raises. If the program’s expectations are met, they may receive annual merit raises.

Since the program started, more than 200 people have joined the medical assistant apprenticeship. About 80% of the apprentices still work at the medical school one year after they start the program.

Some of the departments that have hired apprentices include neurology, medicine, obstetrics & gynecology, surgery, psychiatry, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, and Student Health and Wellness.

Within the next few months, Washington University will launch additional apprenticeships in a couple of areas.

“Being recognized as an apprentice ambassador is a great honor, and it will benefit us to be part of this national collaboration,” said Kathy Clark, Washington University manager of medical apprenticeships. “What started out to be a pipeline to attract candidates for Washington University openings has turned into a bigger blessing and is allowing us to provide members of the community opportunities to have a variety of rewarding careers with benefits that can be life-changing.”

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