Nafisha Sheldon works as a nurse at Renown in the Labor and Delivery department. She had always been interested in going into the medical field, but when she moved to Reno, she began looking at various options that would enable her to pursue a degree in nursing while working to support her two children. One option was TMCC’s CNA Apprenticeship program.
“I had no idea what an apprenticeship was when I first started the program,” she said. “It turned out great for me because if I had done this on my own, I don’t think I would have been able to work and go to school, compared to this program where they paid me to go to school—so I was learning and getting paid. I also received health benefits, which was important for me and my family.”
TMCC’s CNA Apprenticeship program enables CNA students to complete coursework at Renown while they get hands-on experience. Sheldon cites the small class size, the hands-on and authentic experiences as highlights of her experience in the program. Once she completed the semester-long CNA program, Renown hired her full time.
“This program was like a dream. I was able to go through the program full-time, I was paid and I had my health benefits. And, when you’re done, you’re pretty much offered a job,” she said. The experience also helped Sheldon to pursue her dream career in Nursing. After working at Renown as a CNA, she applied and was admitted to a nursing program.
Her practical experience as a CNA gave her an advantage over students who had never done that kind of work before. “You go into the nursing field with a general idea of what it’s like. But, when you actually do it, you realize it’s not exactly an easy job—but that was the wonderful part about the apprenticeship. It enables you to see, firsthand, what the job is like, and you learn from it and grow.”
Earn While You Learn
According to Lauren Gatto, TMCC’s Apprenticeship Navigator, the CNA Apprenticeship program is a true “earn while you learn” model. “So instead of a student graduating high school and feeling like they have to choose between going to college and spending three to four years or going into the workforce, the apprenticeship is doing both at the same time so you get a feel for the career,” she said.
Apprenticeships are available both for recent high school graduates, or returning students looking to change careers. Gatto recalls one apprentice who had been studying Mechanical Engineering at Cal Poly, and who realized that career path wasn’t right for him. That student applied for an apprenticeship with Hamilton as a CNC Machine Operator. “That’s something that’s really rewarding to see because if you feel like you’re at a dead-end--if you received a degree and it didn’t work out or this career didn’t work out-- the apprenticeship program is like a life preserver that can help people to find a fulfilling career in a completely different field.
“Also, college isn’t for everybody,” said Gatto, who said that these apprenticeship opportunities can open doors to higher education for students who may not have otherwise considered it. Because the classes are skill-based and directly related to what the student is doing as an apprentice, the practical application of the skills is clear. “A lot of these students have actually moved forward, and applied to do an associate’s degree, because they see that they can go to college and that they can be successful,” said Gatto.
TMCC became a part of the Nevada Apprenticeship Project in 2015 after receiving the Department of Labor’s American Apprenticeship Initiative Grant. This program will train more than 300 apprentices across Nevada, preparing them for high-skilled, hands-on jobs in high-demand industries. Depending on the program, an apprenticeship can last anywhere from one to four years. Typically, apprentices are offered the opportunity to transition to full-time employment with the company for which they’ve been working.
The classes that students take as they complete their apprenticeship relate directly to their line of work, while providing additional workforce training, such as specific competencies to be successful, problem-solving, critical thinking, conversations with co-workers and employers, growth versus fixed mindset and study skills.
“The apprenticeship program is like a golden ticket,” said Gatto. “The apprenticeship is an opportunity for you not to have any previous experience—and that’s what the employers love because they aren’t having to ‘re-train’ you, they just have to train you. And, you’re getting skills from us, and we are paying 100% for your books, your tuition, and other supplies.”
Available Apprenticeship Opportunities include:
- Certified Nursing Assistant
- CNC Machine Operator
- Industrial Maintenance Mechanic
- Personal Care Aide
- Production Operator
- Metal Fabricator
- Electro-Mechanical Technician
- Workforce Development Specialist
- Press Technician
For more information about the Nevada Apprenticeship Project, please visit their website or call 775-856-5304.