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Sen. Cory Booker Meets YTTW Graduates Employed by Saint Barnabas and Discusses LEAP Act

Jackie Goldman-Schatell

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 • 5:01am

LIVINGSTON, NJ – Guests in the lobby of Saint Barnabas Medical Center (SBMC) got up close and personal with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), who graciously shook their hands and posed for selfies on Tuesday.

“He was so friendly—it took him a while to get down the hall,” said Livingston Mayor Michael Rieber, who was at SBMC to greet the Senator with Deputy Mayor Michal Silverman and Councilmen Al Anthony and Rudy Fernandez.

Booker was at the facility to meet with the graduates of the 1199J (National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, AFSCME, AFL-CIO) Training Fund/Youth Transitions to Work Program (YTTW) Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) and Physical Therapy (PT) Aide Scholarship Apprenticeship Programs to learn about the experience of the YTTW participants as apprentices and then as graduates/employees at SBMC.

The Senator, who recently introduced the LEAP Act (Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs Act) with Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, which is based on the proven YTTW training model, also discussed the LEAP Act during his visit to SBMC.

“I am really inspired by the ability of the YTTW program to provide youths with the opportunity and ability to become skilled CNAs and PT Aides with solid career opportunities,” Booker said. “Through the LEAP Act, this YTTW apprenticeship strategy can help the nation decrease its unemployment rate via the creation of an employable specially-skilled apprentice workforce.”

The YTTW program is designed to recruit, educate, mentor, train and place recent high school graduates into jobs in the health care field. It is made possible by a grant through the State of New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development Youth Transition to Work Partnership. SBMC has participated in the program since 2009 and to date has hired 17 YTTW graduates.

“The program provides high school students who might not be planning to attend college with the opportunity to enroll in a program where they will be taught the skills necessary for becoming CNAs or PT Aides,” said President of District 1199J National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, AFSCME, AFL-CIO Sue Cleary, who also stated that the PT Aide program is not only the first one in the US—it is the only one in the US.

“The juniors and seniors with High School Diplomas or GEDs who apply to the program undergo an intensive screening process, said Assemblywoman, 27th District Essex & Morris Counties, Mila M. Jasey, who was in attendance.

“However, due to funding, only 20 of the 1000 plus who apply are accepted each year,” said Cleary. “They gain skills, become work ready in the summer, and then interview for jobs at SBMC, Inglemoor and other facilities involved in the program consortium.”

She added, “After getting their feet wet early in the workforce, with solid skills, good salaries and benefits, many YTTW graduates go on to get their nursing degrees. And, not only do some graduates go on to become nurses, some are the future of our union—these are some of our union reps coming through the ranks.”

“In addition, this program is a great way for the union and facilities like Saint Barnabas to find a common ground,” added Cleary. “Nursing administrators have even said that the program is a win-win because they are able to get the right people, with the right attitude who can transition through to become good staff contributors. It is a good investment.”

Aside from meeting with Cleary; SBMC’S Director of Education and Research Dr. Mary Beth Russell; Instructor, 1199J Training Fund/YTTW Mark Kuiper; SBMC’S Director of Human Resources Carol Haynes; SBMC’S Human Resources Representative Karen Holt, other SBMC staff members and YTTW graduates working at SBMC, Senator Booker got to see some of the program’s graduate CNAs and PT Aides in action.

One PT Aide, Ian Aquino, of Jersey City, who has worked at SBMC for a year and two months and was in attendance said, “The YTTW program is beautiful. It helped me get through a lot. The program instructors were very hard on us—they put me in my place. During high school I was reckless.”

When asked about his career Aquino said, “We are like family at this job and I really enjoy my work—the patients definitely keep me on my toes.”

Aquino, who said that he was overwhelmed by meeting Senator Booker who was “cool” and a “good guy” added, “I love what I do and am now going for my nursing degree at Hudson County Community College.”

About The Leveraging and Energizing America’s Apprenticeship Programs (LEAP) Act

According to the LEAP Act webpage of Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), he and Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced the LEAP Act “to increase apprenticeships through a new federal tax credit for employers. Currently, there are over 10 million unemployed Americans, yet four million jobs remain unfilled as many companies struggle to find qualified workers to fill available jobs.”

The site also says that “according to a 2010 report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2018 the United States will face a shortage of workers with recognized postsecondary credentials—shortages of 3,000,000 workers with degrees and 4,700,000 workers with certificates."

And, in a press release put out by Senators Booker and Scott on April 9, many employers say that the reason for their unfilled jobs is a lack of available trained workers. The Senators hope apprenticeships provided by the LEAP Act will help to fill this gap.

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