Health Support Specialist program has been designed to require minimal if any expenses for each apprentice to cover out of pocket costs to succeed.

For participating employer organizations, the Health Support Specialist tuition has been developed to be reimbursable using the Minnesota Nursing Facility Employee Scholarship Program, administered by the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

This scholarship program was enacted by the Minnesota Legislature to support efforts to recruit and retain qualified employees and to expand and improve Minnesota's older adult services workforce. Further, it seeks to improve the education and skills of our workforce, and provide employees with a means for career advancement.

Over the past two decades, staff shortages within the aging services field have become acute, as an aging workforce, low wages, and lack of career advancement opportunities have hurt efforts to recruit and retain a sufficient number of employees to care for our aging population. Through Health Support Specialist and other innovative changes to job descriptions, the designed environments we work and live in, and the professional development opportunities now available this is changing!

Since its adoption in July 2001, the Nursing Facility Employee Scholarship Program has been a highly utilized and valued tool employed by most of Minnesota's care centers in efforts to maintain a quality workforce. According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, thousands of scholarships are awarded each year, helping train and educate a variety of staff statewide. Of these employees, nearly 75 percent pursued careers in nursing or other direct care positions, while most of the remaining 25 percent sought to improve their job-related skills in other aging service fields, such as social work, activity planning, business management, or psychology.

Health Support Specialist is the latest career and training to be used by the scholarship program. The scholarship program helps address shortages within care centers by infusing an already depleted workforce with homegrown, newly educated nurses, health support specialist and other care staff would likely not have access to higher education.

As it exists today, the scholarship program is one of the few educational programs geared directly toward providing career advancement opportunities to line staff and often low-wage employees with a means for self-improvement. Further, since comparatively low wages often preclude direct care staff from pursuing higher education, the scholarship monies become and essential tool for attracting, developing, and retaining qualified staff in skilled care settings. Equally important, the scholarship program allows care centers to improve the standard of care by further educating and training existing staff to better perform their care responsibilities.

Older adult service providers have long been providing the best possible care to residents despite insufficient government support. As the state makes a commitment to care giving, the scholarship program is a small investment that goes a long way for the provider community, employees, and the communities they serve. By providing money for employee scholarships, Minnesota has begun to address current staffing issues and prepare for future challenges.

For more about the Scholarship Program, visit:

Copyright 2013 Aging Services of Minnesota