General Apprenticeship FAQs

What is the Health Care Apprenticeship Consortium?

We are a partnership created to provide all healthcare employers within Washington State access to the benefits of skilled apprenticeship training for their workforce. The Health Care Apprenticeship Consortium is sponsored by SEIU Healthcare 1199NW Multi-Employer Training and Education Fund and is a multi-union and multi-employer Washington State-registered Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee.

We are open to all healthcare employers in Washington.

What are the benefits of apprenticeships for healthcare employers?

Apprenticeships offer healthcare employers a range of benefits: a pathway of skilled and diverse workers, lower turnover and greater satisfaction for both apprentices and mentors, cultivating job skills that match your unique needs and culture, increased workforce loyalty, and higher ROI and productivity.

Read our Employer’s Guide or watch our video for more info.  

Why focus on healthcare apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships can deliver sustainable and high-yielding solutions to addresses shortages in the healthcare sector. They also build a pathway of skilled, competent, and diverse employees.

How much does it cost?

The HCAC has grant funds to cover the apprenticeship fee and tuition costs for employers to participate in our healthcare apprenticeship programs. This funding is available until June 30, 2021, or funds are completely utilized, whichever comes first. 

What’s the return on investment (ROI) for employers?

Data from the Seattle Jobs Initiative shows that in their first year, an academically trained Medical Assistant (MA) has the advantage over an apprentice. But by Year 2, apprentices begin to pull ahead. By Year 3, an apprentice has a 57% ROI ($102,488 net-cost benefit) compared to 27% for an academically trained MA ($53,850 net-cost benefit).

Apprentices also provide value from the very beginning, since they see patients (i.e., generate revenue) as they progress through their apprenticeship.

Are apprenticeships only available to the Training Fund’s partners?

No. Apprenticeships are available to any healthcare employers in Washington state.

Do you only enroll incumbent workers, or can you get referrals from external partners?

We can do either. We will work with you to identify internal and/or external candidates to comprise your apprenticeship cohort.

For example, our first Medical Assistant cohort with Kaiser Permanente WA enrolled half of the apprentices from within Kaiser (i.e., administrative/front desk roles who wanted to change careers). We then recruited additional candidates (the remaining half cohort) for Kaiser in collaboration with community partners. 

How many apprentices do I need to participate?

You can start with just one!

We also work with multiple employers to fill a single apprenticeship cohort, or we can develop a customized cohort just for you, if you have a larger group.

How difficult are apprenticeships to implement?

Apprenticeships are easy to implement, and the HCAC provides guidance and works with you every step of the way. We’re available when and where you need us. 

What are the steps to implementing an apprenticeship program?

We provide step-by-step guidance and assistance to help you successfully implement an apprenticeship.

We will help you with the application and enrollment process, recruiting apprentices, identifying mentors, creating a program that meets your needs, and evaluating your apprentices along the way. 

Do I have to pay apprentices for classroom time?

Paying apprentices for classroom time (Required Supplemental Instruction) – in addition to their On-the-Job Training/work (OJT) time – is highly recommended, but is not a requirement. Note that this only includes the time that apprentices are actually attending class sessions or lab work, and does not include time spent preparing for class or doing homework.

Paying apprentices during RSI ensures that you attract diverse candidates for these roles. And it also promotes workforce equity and accessibility for candidates who might otherwise be unable to afford a new healthcare job (e.g., due to cost, time, or other factors).

Apprenticeships are an opportunity to build a pathway of skilled and diverse employees in your workforce!

How do I structure an apprenticeship program?

We can structure apprenticeship programs differently, based on your needs.

Some cohorts begin with 3 weeks of classroom time (RSI), so that apprentices begin with the basics before starting On-the-Job Training. They then move on to a mix of RSI and OJT time, which can be structured as 4 days of OJT clinic time + 1 day of class time (RSI).

This model enables access to apprenticeships for employees with families, because they don’t have to take time outside of weekday business hours for training and learning.

What is the pay rate for apprentices?

We have a set journey-level wage rate across WA state that has been approved for our programs, and most employers often choose to pay above this rate.

Please contact us for the exact numbers.

Do I have to be in the Seattle area to participate?

We work with healthcare employers across Washington state!

It is actually even easier to train apprentices remotely now, since we created the Virtual Healthcare Institute to train healthcare apprentices and students virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What kind of apprenticeship programs do you offer?

We currently offer apprenticeships in these areas:

  • Medical Assistant
  • Pharmacy Technician
  • Central Sterile Processing Tech

We also offer Certified Nursing Assistant programs.

We offer three new Behavioral Health Apprenticeship Programs:

  • Behavioral Health Technician
  • Peer Counselor
  • Substance Use Disorder Professional
What if I want to have an apprenticeship in a different occupation?

We are happy to work with you to develop an apprenticeship program in whatever healthcare occupation your organization needs. 

Behavioral Health Apprenticeship FAQs

Apprenticeships & Behavioral Health Overview

What are Behavioral Health (BH) apprenticeships?

An apprenticeship combines on-the-job training (OJT) with college-level classroom instruction. Each apprentice is assigned a mentor by their employer to guide them through their OJT. This enables employers to optimize and transmit the knowledge and skills of their most experienced employees to the next generation of employees. In the behavioral health (BH) sector, this program builds a flexible behavioral health workforce prepared to meet the needs of your organization’s clients/patients.

The Behavioral Health apprenticeship program involves:

  • 85% paid on-the-job training (OJT) at their place of employment where the apprentice is supervised by an experienced (i.e., journey-level) employee
  • 15% attending college-level instruction to learn the relevant theory and application
Why create apprenticeships in Behavioral Health?

Washington state is facing a behavioral health workforce crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The higher education system is not producing enough graduates to fill the need, many academic programs are not currently operating at full capacity, and many trained behavioral health professionals are leaving the field due to rigorous requirements for licensure and low pay.

BH Apprenticeship programs augment existing pathways to cultivate, train, and retain more vital workers to serve patients in need.

  • Access & equity: Apprenticeships provide access to education and training for those who are unable to afford college or significant classroom instruction time while working. Apprenticeships therefore enable access to those who cannot enroll in traditional higher education programs.
  • Diversifying the workforce: The BH field needs more diversity so clients can find practitioners who resonate with their own background and life experiences. Apprenticeships have proven effective in building diversity into the existing workforce.
  • Recruitment & Retention: Apprenticeship programs allow employers to invest in candidates they have selected. Research indicates that apprenticeships cultivate better retention. Smaller providers, that struggle to compete for new college graduates because of size or location, also benefit by being able to hire apprentices to fill positions.
Who is providing the BH Apprenticeship program?

The BH Apprenticeship program is implemented by the Health Care Apprenticeship Consortium (HCAC), a partnership created and sponsored by a labor/management partnership (SEIU Healthcare 1199 NW Multi-employer Training Fund) to provide the WA healthcare sector with access to apprenticeship training for its workforce. The Behavioral Health Apprenticeship program is the HCAC’s newest program.

Participation in the apprenticeship program is not tied to union membership.

The BH Apprenticeship’s formal guidelines are detailed in the Program Standards. Please contact us to request a copy.

What are the components of the BH Apprenticeship program?

This registered BH apprenticeship has the following components:

Structured on-the-job training (OJT)

  • Apprentice provided an experienced mentor
  • Structured OJT Plan & App to verify competencies are completed


  • Free mentor training provided
  • Employer identifies mentor(s)
  • Ratio of 1 mentor for 1 or 2 apprentices
  • Mentor can change

Classroom instruction (RSI)

  • Live virtual remote classroom instruction
  • Instruction by HCAC and credited through a community/technical college
  • May included in-person labs, depending on the program


  • Apprentices: BH apprentices will manage their time, keep work records, and attend classes toward their apprenticeship program.
  • Employers: Participating employers will sign a Training Apprenticeship Agreement (TAA) & EEO form, pay apprentice wages, oversee OJT, monitor attendance at training classes, and evaluate progress.


  • Journey-level certificates from L&I
  • College credit/certificate, depending on the program
  • Qualify to take industry licensure/certification examination (such as NCAC, NA-C or CPC)

BH Apprenticeship Program Design

What career pathways are available in the BH Apprenticeship program?

The BH Apprenticeship program has three available pathways:

  • Substance Use Disorder Professional (SUDP)
    • 2-year/4,000-hour program


  • Behavioral Health Technician (BH Tech)
    • 1-year/2,000-hour program


  • Peer Counselor (PC)
    • 1 -year/2,000-hour program
Are there different program requirements for each pathway?

The entry requirements that are the same for the three pathways are: candidates must be 18 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent.  The SUDP apprentice candidates must meet English and math prequalification levels equivalent to the status of a high school senior. Additionally, each pathway requires its own specific classes and competencies for successful completion.

What are the BH Apprenticeship program’s credentials and how does it work?

The BH Apprenticeship program is officially registered with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). The Health Care Apprenticeship Consortium (HCAC) is an approved Washington State Registered Apprenticeship Committee and runs the Behavioral Health Apprenticeship programs. All WA state registered apprenticeships must follow approved state standards.

All apprentices who complete their program are provided:

  1. Journey-level certificates from L&I
  2. College credit/certificate depending on the program
  3. SUDP apprentices will be eligible to take the National Certified Addiction Counselor Level I (NCAC I) certification exam upon program completion
  4. Peer Counselor apprenticeship includes the Washington State Health Care Authority Certified Peer Counselor (CPC) Certification
  5. Behavioral Health Tech apprentices will qualify to obtain their Washington State Department of Health Nursing Assistant-Certification ( aka CNA) certificate.
(WATCH) How has the NA-C been embedded into these Behavioral Health apprenticeships?
(WATCH) How do these Behavioral Health apprenticeships interface with regulatory certifications?
Do BH apprenticeships' coursework earn college credits?

Yes. The new BH Apprenticeship programs are offered in partnership with community and/technical college(s). Apprentices receive college credit for any college coursework completed during the apprenticeship training.

Apprentices may pursue additional college courses (undergraduate and graduate) if they want to further their BH education and training.

How are classroom sessions conducted?

Most classroom sessions will be conducted live and virtually (including some virtual reality).  Some programs may have in-person small groups, depending on the number of enrolled students and apprentice locations – to facilitate maximum attendance and participation from students across the state. Most apprentices will have some limited in-person class instruction for clinical training and practice.

Have apprenticeships been successful in other healthcare fields?

Yes. The HCAC provides healthcare employers in Washington State with access to apprenticeship training for their workforce, and it currently has three successful healthcare apprenticeship programs: medical assistant, central sterile processing technicians, and pharmacy technicians. The Behavioral Health Apprenticeship program is the HCAC’s newest program.

What is the track record of other HCAC healthcare apprenticeship programs?

The HCAC’s other apprenticeship programs have had a successful track record thus far:

  • Recruitment: Each apprenticeship opening attracts between 30 and 100 applicants.
  • Quality: Nearly 100% of apprenticeship participants pass their certification exams.
  • Retention:
    • A strong apprenticeship mentoring/precepting program can decrease the turnover rate among mentors/preceptors by 50%, while also strengthening their leadership skills by 100%.
    • Research indicates that 80% of apprentices choose to stay with their current employer. Apprentice candidates enter into a service commitment where they affirm they will stay with their new employer for two years after graduation with their occupation certificate.
  • Diversity: Apprenticeship programs attract a significantly more diverse and local candidate pool.

BH Apprentices

Who can sign up to be an apprentice? How does my organization recruit them, and can you help?

Anyone who meets the following criteria can sign up to be an apprentice:

  • Employed by the organization where they will do their apprenticeship training
  • Has a high school diploma or GED
  • Is at least 18 years old
  • SUDP ONLY: Must qualify to enter into MATH 087 or 091 (algebra II or entry statistics) and enter into ENGLISH 098 (high school senior English or CASUS level V), or show equivalent coursework.
  • Can spend a total of 40 hours/week at work and in remote classes
  • Can spend some time each week studying and preparing for the classes
  • Can commute to work
  • Is eligible to work in the United States

Apprentices can be existing employees or new hires. The employer is responsible for recruiting and hiring apprentices and mentors, although the HCAC can offer guidance and tips on how to recruit candidates. We can also help boost the exposure of apprentice job postings.

How many apprentices can my organization have? Is there a minimum or maximum?

There is no limit to the number of apprentices at a participating organization. Your organization will need to provide each apprentice with a qualified mentor (an experienced professional in the field in which the apprentice is training), and each mentor may have up to two mentees. The number of apprentices at your organization therefore depends on how many staff members are available to serve as qualified mentors.

Are apprentices paid to attend classroom/lab sessions?

BH apprentices are full-time employees who “learn while they earn” a paycheck. Most apprentices are paid during class time, but they are not paid for time spent studying or preparing for classes.

In general, employers who pay wages for apprentices during class time have seen increases in the number of applicants for apprenticeships, as well as increased retention.


(WATCH) How is the Behavioral Health OJT different from the regular training that employees receive at work?
Do apprentices complete all their OJT at our organization, or rotate through multiple sites?

BH apprentices often complete their OJT with one employing agency. It is possible under certain circumstances to have a partnership with multiple agencies, although that rarely occurs.

However, an employer may choose to rotate apprentices through their own multiple sites, if appropriate.

What happens if an apprentice drops out of the program mid-stream?

If an apprentice quits before completing the program, or is dismissed from the program due to lack of progress, they are obligated to reimburse the HCAC for the full cost of remote classes and instruction. They do not have to reimburse wages.

Can our organization dismiss an apprentice, if needed?

Yes. The employer may dismiss apprentices using the same Human Resources practices and discretion that applies to other employees.

BH Apprenticeship Mentors

What is a mentor, and how do I identify and recruit them?

A mentor is a skilled and experienced professional who provides supervision, oversight, and training to the apprentice. The success of a healthcare apprenticeship greatly depends on an effective mentor supporting the OJT experience.

Apprentices spend more hours on the job, working with their mentor/preceptor, than in classrooms/labs.  This makes mentoring/precepting a key part of apprenticeship success.  Helpfully, effective mentorship/preceptorship support typically doubles the retention of the mentor/preceptors themselves.

Qualifications: At minimum, a mentor must be:

  • An experienced professional in the apprentice’s area of training
  • At or above the licensure/certification level of their apprentice

Recruitment: Mentors are recruited from among an employer’s skilled and experienced staff members who are interested in participating in this program. A mentor’s caseload will need to be adjusted so they have time to provide effective mentorship.

Do mentors receive training?

Yes, the HCAC will provide necessary training for BH Apprenticeship mentors.

How much time do mentors need to dedicate to the BH Apprenticeship program?

The amount of time the mentor spends with an apprentice decreases over the course of the apprenticeship.

  • BH Tech & Peer Counselor: Mentors spend approximately 10 hours/week with the apprentice during the first two months, and 2.5 hours/week during the rest of the one-year apprenticeship.

  • SUDP: Mentors spend approximately 10 hours/week with the apprentice during the first two months, 2.5 hours/week during the next four months, and 1.5 hours/week for the rest of the two-year apprenticeship

Each BH Apprenticeship mentor can work with up to two apprentices.

In addition, and per legal requirements, a licensed clinical provider also provides formal supervision.

(WATCH) How is the Mentor different from a Supervisor? And how does this apply to the Substance Use Disorder Professional pathway?
Do the mentor and the supervisor have to be the same individual?

No. This is based on each individual employer’s circumstances and preference.

Why Should Employers Get Involved?

Why should my organization participate in the apprenticeship program?

Research indicates that apprenticeships provide multiple benefits to employers:

  • Recruitment – Apprentices can help develop a more diverse workforce, by enabling access to candidates who typically cannot afford traditional college degrees. Additionally, since candidates typically come from the surrounding community your organization serves, they help build a representative workforce. Apprentices also learn the field in the context of your organization’s culture, priorities, and practices. Healthcare employers can therefore better meet your clients’ needs, while building a pathway of diverse and skilled practitioners.


  • Retention – Apprentices cost less to employ initially, and studies show that ‘homegrown’ employees are more industrious and demonstrate greater loyalty. They also generally experience greater job satisfaction and help increase employee morale. Apprentices (and mentors) tend to stay with their employers longer, leading to cost savings related to recruitment and training, reduced overtime, and turnover. Research indicates that 80% of apprentices choose to stay with their current employer. Apprentice candidates enter into a service commitment where they affirm that they will stay with their new employer for two years after graduation with their occupation certificate.


  • Return on investment (ROI) – Employers typically report strong ROI, including productivity, within a relatively short time span. Long-term cost savings are tied to reduced rehiring, recruitment, and retraining expenses. Apprentices often outperform traditional employees by their fifth year and are therefore a valued investment.
Who can participate in the BH Apprenticeship program?

The BH Apprenticeship program is open to any BH organization throughout Washington state.

If your organization provides mental health, behavioral health, or substance use disorder services, you may be eligible to participate.

Apprentices are recruited after agreements are secured with participating employers, to ensure geographic proximity between the recruited apprentices and the apprenticeship workplaces. Although most of the classroom work will be delivered virtually, apprentices must be able to work at their employer’s site. 

(WATCH) Are these three Behavioral Health occupations billable?

How to Get Involved & Employer Requirements

Can my organization participate in more than one apprenticeship pathway?

Yes, you may participate in as many pathways as you choose.

What are my responsibilities as an employer?

We are happy to provide step-by-step guidance and assistance along the way to help you complete these requirements. Please contact us with any specific requests.

  • Pre-Implementation:
    • Complete and sign the Training Agent Agreement and EEO forms.
    • Complete the OJT Plan using template with HCAC support.
    • Ensure equitable treatment and training opportunities for all apprentices and uniformly apply those conditions.
    • Have trained staff, mentor, and supplies available and rotate apprentices (as needed) in the various processes of their apprenticeship role.
  • Implementation:
    • Identify & hire BH apprentices (create new job description, if needed).
    • Integrate apprentices into your standard supervisory system.
    • Allow the apprentice to attend classroom and lab times.
    • Identify qualified BH mentors, allow them to attend the required 24-hour mentor training, and maintain the appropriate mentor-apprentice ratio.
    • Oversee an apprentice’s OJT and monitor attendance at related training classes.
    • Periodically review and evaluate apprentices before advancement to
    • Pay apprentices the percentage of journey-level wage rate for hours worked.
  • Post-implementation:
    • Recommend “Award of Completion” certificate when an apprentice has satisfactorily completed required coursework and OJT.







How long is the program? What are the start and finish dates?

The BH Tech and Peer Counselor pathways are one-year training programs. The SUDP program is a two-year program.

Program Fall 2022 Spring 2023 Fall 2023
BH Tech (1 yr) 1 cohort (20 students) 1 cohort (20 students) 1 cohort (20 students)
Peer Counselor (1 yr) 1 cohort (20 students) 1 cohort (20 students) 1 cohort (20 students)
SUDP (2 yrs) 1 cohort (20 students) 1 cohort (20 students)  
How much will the program cost? Who pays the cost?

All BH apprenticeship programs cost $3,750 per apprentice per year and includes all college tuition.

*Note: Limited early-bird grant funds are available to support employers participating in this program.

Please contact us if you are interested in applying for employer support funding.

Who pays for the classroom (i.e., Related Supplemental Instruction, or RSI) costs?

The cost for RSI – including tuition – is included in the overall apprenticeship program fee.

Financial support is available for employers to cover the program fee. Please contact us to learn more about these options.

What do I need to submit to qualify for the limited early-bird employer incentive funding?

In order to qualify for grant-funded early-bird employer incentives, you will need to submit the following (in addition to other necessary apprenticeship enrollment documents):

  • An EDI/diversity retention plan
  • A sustainability plan

We are happy to guide and assist you in preparing and completing these documents.

I'm interested. How does my organization sign up for BH Apprenticeships?

We look forward to helping you achieve your workforce needs through the BH Apprenticeship program!

Please contact us to begin the process.

Other Questions

Are you affiliated with the union? Does my organization have to be a union member to participate?

No. The BH Apprenticeship program is administered by the Health Care Apprenticeship Consortium (HCAC, sponsored by SEIU Healthcare 1199NW Multi-Employer Training Fund).

Any behavioral healthcare provider in WA state may participate.


We welcome any employer or apprentice to participate in this program.

Have another question and don’t see it on this page?

Please contact us and we will get back to you soon!