Minnesota using COVID funds to extend nursing assistant training program

Minnesota is using $2.4 million in COVID-19 funds to extend the state’s free nursing assistant training program.

Gov. Tim Walz’s office announced the move Thursday.

The initiative offers free training, books and uniforms for Minnesotans, and covers the cost of the certification exam.

The program started in December with a goal of training 1,000 certified nursing assistants. It came at a time when long-term care facilities were experiencing severe staffing shortages amid the pandemic and sought to address those shortages.

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State data shows nursing assistants are still the sixth most in-demand occupation in Minnesota.

By using the funds from the state’s COVID-19 Management Appropriation fund, the nursing assistant program will now run until February 2023.

“By bolstering our health care workforce and providing pathways to life-long careers, this initiative continues to benefit Minnesotans in the short- and long-term. I’m proud to invest in a program that strengthens our health care workforce, eliminates barriers to entry into high-demand careers, and supports the health of our state,” Walz said in a statement. “The success of this program is a testament to Minnesota’s ability to collaboratively address complex problems.”

Walz’s office says 1,370 Minnesotans have taken advantage of the nursing assistant program to date.

It’s led by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education in partnership with state colleges, universities and long-term care providers. Courses can be found online.