Kwanyin Linares’ educational journey began in 2017 in Venezuela, where she was a university student pursuing her dream to become a nurse. However, as political and economic conditions worsened, Linares and her brother left their birth country—leaving behind family members as well as their dreams—and settled in Bartlett.
If you asked Linares a year ago what she’d be doing today, she would have never imagined that she could be back on track toward her goals. Today, Linares has embraced a new future, thanks to an apprenticeship offered through Elgin Community College and Clare Oaks Senior Living, a continuing care retirement community based in Bartlett.
“The apprenticeship model works well for employers,” said Kathy Meisinger, ECC's director of strategic partnerships and experiential learning. “In particular, employers interested in strategies customized to their businesses will find that the model promotes the transfer of knowledge to the next generation of workers and builds a long-term pipeline of employees.”
Clare Oaks generously pays Linares’ tuition, while also providing her with on-the-job training. Upon completion of the apprenticeship, the organization will offer Linares a full-time job as a certified nursing assistant (CNA).
“We’re excited to explore a new avenue for CNA talent. There’s an overall shortage in the market for this role,” said Gigi Walker, chief executive officer at Clare Oaks. “The apprenticeship is a great service that benefits Clare Oaks, but more importantly, a program like this benefits the employee for a lifetime.”
ECC has taken the lead in developing innovative apprenticeships, such as the basic nurse assistant (BNA) option, that extends the ‘earn while you learn’ concept beyond traditional trades.
Meanwhile, apprenticeships in skilled trades remain viable and productive. ECC has partnered with the Industry Consortium for Advanced Technical Training (ICATT), a leading apprenticeship program provider in the Midwest, to create an industrial maintenance apprenticeship program. The ICATT partnership has been so successful that plans are being made to expand the program in spring 2019.
From Linares’ perspective, the nursing assistant apprenticeship represents a new world of opportunities—a world she would not have envisioned without the help of ECC, where she gained the confidence to move forward toward her dream.