Illinois Eastern Community Colleges and Clay County Hospital are partnering to create the first Department of Labor-registered nursing apprenticeship in Illinois designed to take students from a high school diploma to an associate in nursing degree.
Plans to create the apprenticeship began in December as Clay County Hospital reached out to the IECC Nursing Program in its efforts to increase opportunities for students to transition into nursing. The IECC Board of Trustees finalized the agreement on Tuesday night.
IECC Associate Dean of Allied Health Alani Frederick said, “The nursing apprenticeship program is a very innovative next step in education for nursing in the state of Illinois. What's really going to be beneficial for our students is that they are going to not only receive a quality education at Illinois Eastern Community Colleges, but they will also be immersed in the world of healthcare through the apprenticeship hours that they will have at Clay County Hospital. This will help those students be ready to transition successfully to a career in nursing at the end of the apprenticeship.”
Entry into the apprenticeship is a two-step process. First, students must be accepted into the IECC Nursing Program at either Frontier Community College, Lincoln Trail College, Olney Central College, or Wabash Valley College. Then, they must apply to Clay County Hospital.
Clay County Hospital Clinical Educator and Registered Nurse Kamy Vail said the partnership is a win-win for both the hospital and students looking to enter the nursing field.
“We all know we're in a nursing shortage especially after Covid, so we have to get new, innovative ways to bring in nurses to the hospital,” Vail explained. “The nursing apprenticeship program will be able to support students financially throughout their educational journey. In exchange for meeting the requirements of the apprenticeship, Clay County Hospital is prepared to pay for items such as tuition, fees, books, and uniforms in addition to the hourly wage the student will be earning as part of the apprenticeship program. When they graduate from the nursing program and pass their NCLEX, they will be licensed as a registered nurse in the state of Illinois and will come out with a full-time job at Clay County Hospital, with wonderful benefits and full-time hours.”
During the apprenticeship, students are required to work only one 12-hour shift a week.

“It's a minimal work requirement so that they can focus on their schooling and to make sure they succeed in the nursing program,” Vail added.
Frederick hopes the financial incentives tied to the apprenticeship will enable more students to pursue a nursing degree.
“We are hoping when finances are not in the picture, they will apply since that piece will be taken care of,” she said.
OCC Interim President Roger Eddy said the apprenticeship is an example of the continued cooperation between IECC and the community.
“I want to congratulate Alani Fredrick and the administration at Clay County Hospital for coming up with such a creative way to solve a critical issue,” he said. “It shows that we have partners that work with us in our area hospitals who look for innovative ways to solve what is a critical nursing shortage in our area.”
For more information on applying to the IECC Nursing Program, contact Advisor Linda Horn at 618-395-7777, ext. 2246, or email Apprenticeship applications will be available in April on the Clay County Hospital website at