Alamo Colleges/Methodist Healthcare Apprenticeship Program

Health Care July 2021 PREMIUM
By Alamo Colleges District

Healthcare workers have been praised as heroes in the last year as they served on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. They worked long hours, under stressful conditions, in part due to the long-standing shortage of healthcare workers in America, leaving hospitals and other healthcare facilities short-staffed. In San Antonio, the Alamo Colleges District and Methodist Healthcare are working together to address the need for skilled healthcare workers, while also fighting another major concern in our nation: poverty, specifically in communities of color.

 The Alamo Colleges/Methodist Healthcare Patient Care Technician (PCT) Apprenticeship program, funded by the district’s $1million Healthcare Apprentice Partnership (HCAP) grant from the Department of Labor (DOL), focuses on starting healthcare apprenticeships in San Antonio. Alamo Colleges is the only institution in Texas to receive such a grant from the DOL. 

This partnership is one way in which the Alamo Colleges, as the largest provider of higher education and workforce training in the region, is continuously pursuing innovative programs that will provide residents with the economic and social mobility that is essential for a brighter future for themselves and their families.

The district chose healthcare because of the growing demand for healthcare-related jobs in the area. San Antonio is a regional hub for medical care in South Texas. The healthcare and biosciences industries continue to be one of the city’s largest, with nearly one in five residents employed in the industry.

The experience of one of the program’s recent graduates, Destinee Martinez, shows why the program is a perfect fit between the needs of the city’s residents and the Alamo Colleges’ goals. A single parent of two children, ages 1 ½ and 4, Destinee grew up on San Antonio’s economically disadvantaged southwest side. After graduating from high school and attending cosmetology school, she worked as a hairdresser for seven years. The uncertainty of the pandemic and the responsibility of being the sole provider for her children led her to decide that “I had to do better for my kids.”

On her aunt’s advice, she explored career options through Project Quest, one of the Alamo Colleges’ workforce partners, and was encouraged to apply for the PCT apprenticeship program. She was thrilled to be accepted into the program in December 2020, although the intensive, six-week program curriculum was challenging. But by March 2021, she was fully qualified as a PCT and employed by Methodist Healthcare.

“I love seeing how much I can help a patient,” Martinez says. “I also love helping their families by showing them that their loved ones are in good hands around people like myself who care about them and want to help them and their families,” she adds. “I love knowing that now that I am in healthcare, I can move up from here and continue my education in the medical field. The apprenticeship program gave me confidence that I could do more than I ever thought, and that was as important as getting the training for a great career.”

Alamo Colleges Chancellor Dr. Mike Flores acknowledges the long-term potential of such programs. “As the number one provider of workforce training in the region, our workforce efforts, in particular, focus on creating pathways for residents to enter high-wage, high-demand careers,” he says. “These efforts work toward empowering residents with the education and training to provide them with the economic and social mobility that is the key to a brighter future for them and their families. These innovative programs also help to fulfill our vision of ‘eliminating poverty through education’.

Alamo Colleges Board Chair Dr. Gene Sprague agrees that the program is a good fit for the district. “Having been involved in healthcare education for 23 years, I know that training students for a career in healthcare is a wise choice and will pay dividends for them for years to come.”

Barry Burns, division VP of human resources for Methodist Healthcare, notes that the program meets his organization’s needs well. “The Alamo College District’s PCT apprenticeship program is an effective strategy to fill the shortage we have in entry-level personnel, and it’s a great launch pad for a career in healthcare.”

The program began on February 1, 2021. As of June 28, 54 apprentices have been accepted into the program. Another cohort of 12 will begin on September 13. The 54 apprentices were selected from 94 applicants. Since the selection process is competitive and all apprentices are full-time Methodist Health employees, a relatively small number are accepted into the program. Half of those accepted are Hispanic, 24% are African-American and 3% are Asian.

To partner for the grant program, Methodist Healthcare revamped their Patient Care Technician (PCT) training program into an intensive six-week apprenticeship program that covers PCT competencies such as obtaining vital signs, safe patient handling, maintaining a safe patient environment and communicating timely and accurate patient care information. The HCAP grant covers the cost of tuition and books, the certification exam, uniforms, and transportation.

PCTs deliver high-quality, patient-centered care by performing a variety of basic patient care services. Under the supervision of a registered nurse, the PCT assists the nursing staff in providing patient care in accordance with their skills/training and the department’s needs and assists the patient care team with maintaining a clean, well-organized, and safe patient care environment.

Eligible apprentices must be recent graduates of a certified nursing assistant or PCT program and be eligible to receive an industry-recognized credential such as Texas Certified Nursing Aide (CNA) registry or national certification for PCT’s. Candidates are evaluated by Alamo Colleges and also go through the Methodist Healthcare hiring process before being accepted into the program.

Key components of the program are 1) Paid work component – the apprentices are full-time Methodist Healthcare employees during the apprenticeship and will continue with Methodist after completion of the apprenticeship, 2) Work-based learning and mentorship – the apprentices will spend a portion of their training working in their preassigned area with an experienced PCT and nurse preceptor, 3) Educational and instructional component – a portion of their time will be spent in the classroom, 4) Industry-recognized credential earned via Texas Certified Nursing Aide registry or national certification as a PCT.

For more information on the healthcare worker shortage and how apprenticeships can address this, go to

To learn more about Alamo Colleges’ Healthcare Apprentice Partnership program, go to

To learn about the Alamo Colleges’ other apprenticeship programs, go to

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