On May 24th, the United States Department of Labor (DOL), Office of Apprenticeship, announced it has reissued to the International Hearing Society (IHS) its Certificate for new National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards for the occupation of Hearing Aid Specialist.
According to an IHS press release, the program’s reinstatement marks it as the first federally-recognized and standardized hearing aid specialist apprenticeship program in the United States.
DOL Approval for Hearing Aid Apprenticeship Program
Almost three years ago, the Department of Labor announced approval of the apprenticeship program, which establishes a two-year competency-based pre-licensure educational path for hearing aid specialist trainees. With the DOL decision to reinstate the program, the apprenticeship track can again be used by employers to recruit and train apprentices for their licensing examinations. If apprentices successfully complete the program they can be employed in an independent practice.
Shortly after the DOL approved the program, in June 2015, it was challenged by national audiology organizations, including the Academy of Doctors of Audiologists, American Academy of Audiology, and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Over the past three years, IHS worked closely with the DOL to address questions and resubmit the program for reconsideration. The Hearing Aid Specialist apprenticeship program aligns with a June 2017 directive from President Trump to the DOL to increase quality jobs for America’s workforce through the expansion and promotion of apprenticeship programs.
“We continue to be enthusiastic about this partnership that will open up numerous opportunities to individuals seeking meaningful employment in an apprenticing field, with the potential for them to achieve business ownership and career satisfaction. IHS is excited to work with national, regional, and local employers as well as state licensing agencies to integrate the program into the licensure process as an approved path for readying candidates to gain the competencies needed for this dynamic profession.”
–IHS Executive Director, Kathleen Mennillo
Given the long wait times to see a hearing care professional, a likely consequence of a shortage of licensed professional in certain parts of the country, an apprenticeship program could address this need. Some are concerned, however, that if apprentices are not properly vetted and trained, they could potentially harm some patients.
As stated in their press release, IHS does plan to work with state agencies and employers to integrate the apprenticeship program into independent practices by ensuring recruitment and training maintain a high standard.
The ADA, ASHA and AAA were contacted for comment. Their responses will be added to future updates to this post.