Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Michigan Talent and Economic Development Director Roger Curtis were in Grand Rapids on Monday to learn more about the success of a health care apprenticeship program in West Michigan.

The Medical Assistant Registered Apprenticeship Program (MARAP) was created in response to the critical shortage of medical assistants in the region. According to labor market data, support occupations in the health care industry are projected to see 18% job growth over the next three years. The demand for medical assistants is expected to increase faster than most, with close to 100 openings per year projected in the Grand Rapids area alone.

MARAP brings together major health care providers Mercy Health, Spectrum Health and Cherry Health;  community colleges in Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Montcalm County; and the region’s workforce development agency, West Michigan Works!, to collectively address the critical shortage of talent. The program combines rigorous coursework with clinical application in a paid work setting.

MARAP participant Tania Hernandez shares her story with Secretary Acosta

Jamie Hoeksema, an apprentice who studied at GRCC and now works at Mercy Health St. Mary’s, was a stay at home mom for nine years. While she had previously worked in health care administration, she wanted to work with patients. “I love that we took what we learned in the classroom and immediately applied it in a work setting,” said Hoeksema.  “The preceptors [physicians who supervise the apprentices] and our instructors noticed that we were more prepared than students following a more traditional path.”


“This team has created tremendous opportunities for employers and job seekers in Michigan.  The MA registered apprenticeship program has rigor and relevance which will be valued across the United States. This is only the beginning for health care training in Michigan.”

-Russell Davis, Michigan State Director, USDOL, Office of Apprenticeship.

Acosta, Snyder and Curtis met with representatives from the program partners and three program participants; Hoeksema and two apprentices who will complete the program in December.  The discussion highlighted the outcomes of the first cohort, including a 96% retention rate, a diverse applicant pool and the fact that graduates master valuable skills, earn a national industry certification, have no college debt and if they choose, have a pathway to many careers within the industry.

“MARAP highlights the power of collaboration between the public and private sectors,” said Jacob Maas, Chief Executive Officer of West Michigan Works!  “As we look to expand to other industries, we’re hopeful that we’ll continue to see stable funding that will allow us to provide this proven training model for employers.”

Learn more about the Medical Assistant Registered Apprenticeship Program at

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