Spurred by an Obama administration initiative, hospitals are finding ways not only to fill critical slots on their information technology staffs, but also to help young people in their communities find a potential calling.

Last year, Vice President Joe Biden asked the American Hospital Association to find 10 hospital organizations to engage in IT apprenticeship programs with local schools. Two health systems were particularly successful. Inova in Alexandria, Va., and Catholic Health Initiatives in Englewood, Colo., over the course of three months, recruited, mentored and hired all the candidates they trained.

Hospitals are being hampered by a lack of IT staff. Thirty-eight percent of organizations had scaled back at least one IT project because they were short-staffed and 24 percent were considering doing so, according to the 2014 HIMSS Workforce Survey.

Inova’s program was so successful, the system plans to expand it this summer. It recruited five high school seniors from Loudoun County Public Schools, secured funding from the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation to help with the expenses and dedicated 20 hours a week to train the pre-apprentices in an IT boot camp.

“We were able to train them as we trained our own staff in different applications of our EHRs,” says Patricia Mook, R.N., Inova’s chief nursing information officer.

CHI partnered with local community colleges that specialized in health care IT degrees, bringing on three pre-apprentices. CHI officials running the program put the candidates on a career track, starting them out as Level 1 specialists with the opportunity to grow within the organization. In addition to their supervisors, the students were assigned mentors.

Jennifer Bliss, national human resources business partner at CHI, says that easing recruits into the job — but not shying away from challenging them with real-world tools — empowered the students.

“We heard that this program was very meaningful to [the students] because often, when folks go into entry-level opportunities, they’re doing very basic duties,” she says.

“We designed these positions to be entry-level. We wanted people to be passionate about their career paths in health care IT.”