Solving the Skills Shortage

December 17, 2023

The Union seeks to improve members’ skills to fill much needed healthcare roles.

Solving the Skills Shortage - Nov:Dec 23 1199MAG.jpgThe 1199SEIU Training and Employment Fund has been running industry-vetted registered apprentice programs for almost a decade to enable members to upgrade their skills and move into high-demand occupations.

Since the pandemic, as chronic workforce shortages have become critical in many of the hospitals and nursing homes where 1199ers are employed, the Union is seeking political support to expand this highly successful apprenticeship program.

On November 14th, as part of National Apprenticeship Week, the Union sponsored an event for employers, labor leaders and elected officials in Uniondale, Long Island to discuss how apprenticeships can address the ongoing shortage of workers in the healthcare industry.

“Covid laid bare the ways in which caregivers, predominantly women of color, are often marginalized. Apprenticeships are one way to redress some of these inequities while also addressing workforce shortages in healthcare.

Registered Apprenticeships are paid roles that allow diverse groups of workers to earn progressive wages in good union jobs as their skills increase,” said Milly Silva, 1199SEIU Secretary-Treasurer.

Koralia Toumazatos started out in Food and Nutrition and then became an 1199 Unit Clerk in the emergency room at Syosset Hospital, Northwell Health. Through the Registered Apprenticeship program, she trained to be a Sterile Processing Tech at the new Bethpage processing facility, which serves Long Island Jewish, Southside, Plainview and Syosset Hospitals.

“We prepare everything from cardiac trays to baby delivery equipment,” says Toumazatos, “Paid apprenticeships means you are not having to balance your home life with furthering your education. I also kept all my benefits. Once I passed my state certification exam, I was guaranteed a job and a pay bump. “I love the job. It is always something different. When I go home at the end of the day, I hope that I was able to save someone’s life.”

Jennifer Shenk, who worked as an 1199 Personal Care Assistant at Staten Island Hospital South when she began her apprenticeship agrees. “It was one of the best things I ever did. I had been at the hospital for 22 years and felt kind of stuck. Now I work at the same Bethpage processing facility and as well as a 10 percent salary increase, I also improved my healthcare benefits by joining a different wage class.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader and local Senator Chuck Schumer added: “As our healthcare system struggles with major workforce challenges, we know the apprenticeship programs are the one of the most important tools we have to solve this problem. By providing workers a way to develop their skills in healthcare, we can create a vitally important pipeline of new talent and build a more stable healthcare workforce. When coupled with the tremendous work that 1199 does on behalf of its members, these apprenticeships become good paying, vitally important jobs that will help our families and communities across New York.”