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Sen. Heinrich tours internship program aimed at addressing health worker shortages

Cesia Gonzales is an intern at University of New Mexico Hospital through the X3 apprenticeship program.
Taylor Velazquez
Cesia Gonzales is an intern at UNM Hospital through the X3 apprenticeship program.

Cesiah Gonzales was considering joining the Marines, but now she's focusing on a health care career thanks to an apprenticeship program highlighted by U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich Friday during a tour at the University of New Mexico Hospital.

Heinrich said the internship program by Future Focused Education inspired his own proposed federal legislation aimed at combatting the shortage of health workers by engaging young people.

The X3 apprenticeship program is one of the only youth apprenticeships in New Mexico and has partnered with UNM Hospital since 2019 to provide internships to over 180 students

Gonzales said before the program she didn’t plan to go into health care, but after spending time with patients she realized she had a lot to contribute.

"I see the gap mostly with my people, the Spanish-speaking community," she said. "And that’s where it excites me to know that I’ll be in there facilitating medical care for people who don’t speak English."

New Mexico is short of hundreds of health care providers, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Last year, thousands of nursing jobs were unfilled. Early data from the X3 program suggests its participants are more likely to stay in school and that they build relationships with people in the workplaces they spend time in.

Heinrich has sponsored two proposed bills: the Apprenticeship Pathways Act and the Pathways to Health Careers Act that would help bolster the program's efforts and support this type of work-based learning.

"We have seen in our workforce people fall off of the traditional educational ladder and work-based learning keeps them engaged and gets them to that career whatever that interest is and really feeds those interests" said Heinrich.

As of now, the X3 program funds up to 65 paid healthcare internships annually.

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners.

Taylor is a reporter with our Poverty and Public Health project. She is a lover of books and a proud dog mom. She's been published in Albuquerque The Magazine several times and enjoys writing about politics and travel.
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