Pre-apprenticeship Program Offers Opportunity for Refugees, Fills Workforce Gap for Saint Alphonsus

After a year of planning, a new program at Saint Alphonsus that prepares individuals for an environmental services technician (EVS) apprenticeship kicked off in September.

The free EVS Pre-apprenticeship Program at Saint Alphonsus in Boise and Nampa started as a conversation in August 2017 involving Saint Alphonsus, the Idaho Hospital Association and the Idaho Department of Labor.

The hospital was having difficulty filling EVS technician positions. These techs provide a vital function, ensuring hospitals are safe, clean and infection-free. Among other duties, they are trained to safely collect, store and dispose of hazardous materials.

Labor workforce consultant Ofelia Morales and representatives of the College of Western Idaho (CWI) Workforce Development and the Boise office of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), met with Saint Alphonsus’ EVS program staff to discuss the issue.

“Each of the partners has pieces to share,” Morales said. The Department of Labor helps with the cost of the apprenticeship for qualifying individuals through the federal Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act program. “IRC has case managers, CWI offers the class and Saint Alphonsus offers the jobs,” Morales said. The first pre-apprenticeship class has been funded and managed through the ESL Pathways Program at CWI.

According to Morales, many of the applicants for the EVS positions are refugees and have limited English proficiency. Since EVS technicians need to be able to safely communicate in English due to the technical health and safety aspects of the job, language barriers surfaced as an issue that training could help resolve.

The first group of 12 started the program in September. Classes are held twice a week for 12 weeks and include English as a Second Language where students learn technical terms and job-related skills.

Finishing the pre-apprenticeship class leads to an interview for the EVS apprenticeship. The yearlong apprenticeship starts at $12 an hour with benefit options. Participants are also able to work toward earning a national credential for EVS technicians. Though the certification is not required at the hospital now, it may someday and it could be useful if the individual wants to move into another job or health-related career, Morales said.

The hospital wants to build the program to provide a steady flow of workers for EVS technicians because as they perfect their skills, these workers can move up within the Saint Alphonsus Health Care system and potentially become certified nurse assistants (CNA), medical assistants (MA), technicians and a myriad of other health care opportunities, John Russ, administrator of the Apprenticeship Idaho program at the Idaho Department of Labor, said.

Toward the end of the pre-apprenticeship, Idaho Department of Labor staff will help students create resumes and prepare for applying and interviewing for the apprenticeship.

“We believe this may be the first program of this kind in the country. We’d like to see if other states might be interested in something like this,” Russ said.

The overarching program at Saint Alphonsus that led to this program is Career Pathways and involves other occupations at the hospital that are also a challenge to find workers.

“It’s all about communication and collaboration,” Morales said. “And now we’re ready to move on to the next Career Pathways project.”

For more information about the program, contact Morales at or at (208) 364-7781 ext. 3954. For more information about apprenticeships, contact Russ at (208) 332-3570 ext. 3303 or at


– Jean Cullen, project coordinator
Idaho Department of Labor