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November 2, 2023

11.2023 Enews Apprenticeship Hero

At the end of October, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that the Community Health Worker program is now a federally recognized apprenticeship. Apprentices complete 150+ hours of instruction at UC San Diego Extended Studies and will be selected by employers for on-the-job training with a minimum starting wage of $21 per hour. After completing half of the program, wages increase to $23 per hour, with a final boost to a base wage of $25 per hour at program completion—nearly $10 above California’s minimum per-hour wage. As an intermediary, the San Diego Workforce Partnership convenes key stakeholders—including employers, educators, community-based organizations and governmental bodies—to develop and implement the apprenticeship pathways and is providing basic job-readiness skills. 

This is our second federally registered apprenticeship: the DOL previously registered our Substance Use Counselor Training apprenticeship. Substance Use Counselor Training program provides participants with free tuition for an online training program, paying for registration and certification fees, to become certified Substance Use Counselors. Workforce Partnership career navigators provide comprehensive job-readiness training and case management and help participants access supportive services and stipends for transportation, work clothing, and so forth. Launched in fall 2022, the Substance Use Counselor Training program’s first participants are wrapping up their education with the Tarzana Treatment Center College this month and will be completing their on-the-job training at the McAllister Institute. We expect to see the first graduates of the program as early as December 2023. 

Meeting San Diego’s workforce needs through apprenticeships

Historically, typical sectors/industries for apprenticeships were in the building or technical trades like energy, construction and utilities (ECU), automotive or engineering. To give the healthcare—and behavioral health at that—a seat at the table, is groundbreaking. Of the 284 California state-registered apprenticeships active in San Diego, just twenty are in the healthcare sector, with most related to research and regulatory compliance. Just one apprenticeship is in behavioral health, Substance Use And Behavioral Health Counselor. The need for behavioral health workforce expansion is undeniable: by 2027 the region will need to recruit 18,500 behavioral health professionals to the field—more than the entire current workforce of 17,000. Of the 18,500 behavioral health worker shortage, 5,727 community health workers and Substance Use and 2,952 Behavioral Health Counselors are needed.  

While higher education providers and community-based organizations are often intermediaries, we have a unique position in the realm of apprenticeships. As a workforce development board, we have reciprocal relationships with local employers and access to on-the-job training and incumbent worker training dollars, as well as Apprenticeship Training Accounts, to cover the cost of hiring and educating apprentices. The flexibility of our role as intermediary allows us to scale up the program to apprenticeship model across our programs and partnerships. In addition to these two apprenticeships, the Workforce Partnership also runs two pre-apprenticeship programs in the energy, construction and utilities (ECU) sector and is a member of the Southern California Apprenticeship Network (SCAN). 

San Diego County has the third highest number of actively registered apprentices in the state, after Sacramento and Los Angeles Counties. This number will only increase as the state pushes to meet its goal of 500,000 registered apprentices by 2029. We are ready to do our part to meet this goal. We are actively pursuing opportunities to expand our pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship pathways in all seven of San Diego’s priority sectors, healthcare, ECU and beyond.  

If you’re a local San Diego employer interested in hiring apprentices or accessing training funds, reach out to our business engagement team today at (619) 404-HIRE  (4473) or email

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