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Senior Helpers apprenticeship removes barriers for home health aides

Photo of Senior Helpers apprenticeship participants

Senior Helpers apprenticeship program provides support and removes barriers to employment

Darlene Gress, Natasha West, and Shannon Frechette are Home Health Aide (HHA) apprentices currently employed at Senior Helpers of the Greater Seacoast.  Senior Helpers provides non-medical, in-home elder care services throughout the Seacoast region of New Hampshire.  Before enrolling in this program Darlene, Natasha, and Shannon had no previous healthcare or personal care experience.

Senior Helpers of the Greater Seacoast worked with Great Bay Community College and AprenticeshipNH to develop a Home Health Aide apprenticeship consisting of 144 hours of classroom instruction and 2,000 hours of hands-on, on-the-job learning.  Darlene, Natasha, and Shannon were able to go back to school and learn new skills that would allow them to make a career change, all while earning wages and benefits from their new employer.  Over the course of their Senior Helpers apprenticeship, they will have access to a 1:1 mentor who can provide guidance and support as they learn. Overcoming significant barriers, these three apprentices have proven that apprenticeship is possible for anyone with the willingness to try their best.

The apprentices recently sat down with us to talk about what their apprenticeship experience has meant to them.


ANH:  Why did you apply to the HHA apprenticeship program at Senior Helpers?

Darlene: I took advantage of this program because I wanted to start a new chapter in my life.  I have always enjoyed helping older people at my church.  I liked to visit them, bring them meals, drive them to appoints, etc. Knowing the difference I was making in their lives and forging close connections with others has given meaning to my life.

Shannon: I applied because I needed a change in my life.  I wanted to get out of my comfort zone so I could start being successful, and I didn’t have many opportunities available to me.  I applied on a whim because it sounded too good to be true, and I’ve always wanted to work with the geriatric population for as long as I can remember.

ANH: What were you doing before you enrolled?

Natasha: Before starting this program, I worked at McDonald’s. But I knew I wanted to make a change.

Shannon: Before starting my apprenticeship I was legally disabled to due anxiety and depression.  I wasn’t confident about finding a job because I had tried in the past but failed due to my anxiety

Senior Helpers apprenticeship participants Darlene Gress, Natasha West, and Shannon FrechettePictured: Natasha West, Darlene Gross, Diane Yocum, Shannon Frechette

ANH: How will this new job help you meet any personal or professional goals you might have?

Natasha: I want to work my way up to becoming a Registered Nurse (RN), and this apprenticeship program will help me get there.

ANH: What has the program been like so far and what have you learned?

Shannon: So far I’ve met a lot of wonderful people including everyone at ApprenticeshipNH, my employer, my teacher in the class at Great Bay, and my clients as well.  I have a mentor who is very nice and helpful and has provided me the opportunity to train with someone more experienced than me.

Darlene: We’re learning things in class like basic client care, and also discussing how to apply what we learn to real-life situations.  Our instructor is really enthusiastic and imparts here wisdom for her real-life experience. Senior Helpers supports me with the minimal experience I have in the field and encourages me to learn new things as I go.  Because of this, I feel confident that I can be successful and I’m comfortable making mistakes knowing that I’ll learn from them.

ANH: What advice would you give to someone else who might be considering participating in a healthcare apprenticeship?

Natasha: If you want a stable career and help with the cost of paying for your education, I would advise you to consider the apprenticeship program!

Shannon: Take this opportunity because it’s a really great one, and I have met nothing but kind, supportive people along the way.  I was very scared to reach out I the beginning, but I’m glad that I did because everyone has been absolutely wonderful and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

ANH: If you could describe this program and experience in one word or short sentence, what would you say?

Darlene: Hopeful.

Shannon: Success and support.

Natasha: Helpful.

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