Displaced workers poised to launch healthcare careers

February 11, 2013

From riverfallsjournal.com: “Displaced workers poised to launch healthcare careers” — When the city of River Falls decided to stop enforcing parking meters for a year, for most people it meant saving some dimes and quarters on downtown visits.

For Eve Cole, it meant the loss of a job she held for more than 20 years.

“My job was eliminated,” said Cole, 52, of Ellsworth.

But Cole is getting set for a new career in healthcare, thanks to a program through Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) in cooperation with Workforce Resource.

Cole is one of dozens of displaced workers in CVTC’s 11-county district to be introduced to new careers in healthcare through the Healthcare Academy, part of the Bridges2Healthcare program that prepares displaced workers for specific jobs in the field.

A group of seven local participants in the Healthcare Academy graduated from the program Thursday, Jan. 31.

“I heard about Bridges2Healthcare when I was here at the job center,” Cole said. “They thought it was a good program for me to go through. I’m thinking about a career change.”

Bridges2Healthcare is the result of a federal grant made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the so-called stimulus bill of 2010.

The bill made money available for retraining displaced workers for the jobs available in their areas.

CVTC was one of a group of eight technical and community colleges in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa to receive a grant to transition workers to jobs in healthcare, according to CVTC Career Pathways Coordinator Brenda Scheurer.

“A lot of people were losing their jobs in manufacturing at the time,” said Scheurer. “We found a number of the skills they had could be applicable to the healthcare industry.”

In Bridges2Healthcare, educational institutions partner with local agencies that work with displaced workers. In the St. Croix Valley, that’s Workforce Resource Inc.

“We were contacted by CVTC to put on the Healthcare Academy and to recruit people for the Bridges2Healthcare program,” said Sue Lane of Workforce Resource.

Workforce Resource screens prospects for their interest and aptitude for healthcare careers.

Those selected enter the Healthcare Academy, a two-week session in which they explore the different aspects and opportunities available in the field.

“We go over medical terminology, regulations, safety, communication and time management,” Lane said. “They also become first-aid certified and do a lot of tours of local health care facilities.”

Through the process, the participants find areas of healthcare that interest them and are then channeled into further training programs, like Bridges2Healthcare’s Medical Office Receptionist or Geriatric Nursing Assistant, taught by CVTC instructors. Some enter regular CVTC programs like Nursing or Dental Hygienist.

Cole plans to enroll in CVTC’s Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program.

“I like Medical Assistant too,” said Cole. “I’m not quite sure yet.”

Bridges2Healthcare has been part of a new start in life for John Rutherford, 52, of River Falls. He had a job in parts supply at an assembly plant come to an end. Rutherford admitted that at his age it’s easy to get discouraged about the possibility of starting a new career, but he adopted a positive attitude.

“I tried to take care of myself better,” he said. “I dropped some weight. Today I feel better about myself and can meet new challenges.”

An injury to his mother-in-law and the care he helped provide to her led to an increased interest in the healthcare field.

Rutherford’s looking into the CNA program at CVTC, too, possibly as a bridge to work in occupational therapy.

Wanda Burgess of Ellsworth has had many jobs, having lived in 17 countries and 46 states in a life with a husband serving in the U.S. Air Force.

Burgess most recently lost a job as a seamstress and has settled in Ellsworth. She worked in assisted living and nursing care settings before.

“When I came to the Bridges2Healthcare program, I thought I didn’t want to do nursing work anymore, but the program changed my mind, and changed my life,” Burgess said. “So I’m going into the CNA program.”

A number of past sessions of the Healthcare Academy, introducing people to the field, took place last year, including one in River Falls. More are coming up in Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire.

CVTC is part of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) and is one of 16 WTCS colleges located throughout the state.

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