Local colleges and employers are partnering for success

Community colleges are working with NH employers to develop skill-specific programs

With employers across the Granite State struggling to meet their hiring needs, community colleges have become an increasingly important resource.

Workforce Training at CCSNH

Partnering with businesses throughout the state, each of the seven colleges in the Community College System of New Hampshire offers Workforce Training Solutions programs to train and retain employees. These programs are skill-specific and designed in close partnership with businesses in industry.

Some of the employers in the state with whom New Hampshire’s community colleges work include Sig Sauer, General Electric, NH Ball Bearings, Sturm Ruger, Titeflex Aerospace, Associated Grocers, Granite State Manufacturing, Lonza Biologics and the Portsmouth Navy Shipyard.

Medical Assistant Program

One example of this collaboration is the Medical Assistant Program at Great Bay Community College, which Exeter Hospital’s primary and specialty care affiliate Core Physicians and Wentworth-Douglass Hospital helped to design.

Upon successful completion of the 12-week program, students are eligible to sit for the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) Certified Clinical Medical Assistant national examination.

“The employers came to us and said, ‘We need to build a curriculum,’” said Will Arvelo, GBCC president. “This is a real partnership that meets a real need.”

As an incentive for those who secure employment through Core Physicians, 60 percent of tuition is paid and students receive base pay and benefits during the program. Students then make a two-year employment commitment.

According to Chris Callahan, vice president of Human Resources at Exeter Health Resources (Exeter Hospital, Core Physicians and Rockingham Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice), the program addresses two needs.

“We really had a severe shortage of medical assistants and we saw that the normal educational path available for medical assistants was a two-year Associate’s program,” he said. “I just couldn’t wait that long.”

Citing that Navy corpsmen are trained in six months, Callahan proposed to educators at GBCC that a similar educational training model could work for a medical assistant program.

“I suggested we take their two-year Associate’s program and put it into 12 weeks of full-time, Monday-to-Friday training,” he said. “We needed to jump start the candidate pool.”

The program has been quite successful, according to Callahan, who said they created their own market and a pool of available talent that did not previously exist.

“Forty-five folks have been through the program in the last three years, and we have a very high retention rate,” he said.

Referring not to just their program, but all such similar opportunities at the state’s community colleges, Callahan said another advantage for students ­— besides the training and the job — is the cost savings.

“Once you get into a hospital, and most in the state offer tuition reimbursement, you can go to school and work and get paid at the same time,” he said. “It’s a very cost-effective way for students to gain entry into the medical field. It’s an incredible financial deal…Think about those student loan payments — those checks can be big.”

WorkReadyNH

Another related workforce initiative at CCSNH is WorkReadyNH, which provides assessment, instruction and credentialing in key skill areas that have been identified by employers as essential to workplace success.

According to Beth Doiron, Director of College Access and DoE Programs and Initiatives at CCSNH, the program is free to participants.

“It’s designed to work with participants who are unemployed or underemployed,” she said. “The program is made up of 60 hours of soft-skills instruction.”

Upon completing the program, participants earn a certificate of completion from the community college, as well as a national Work Readiness Credential, which is separated into four levels of proficiency.

In speaking about WorkReadyNH and other related workforce training opportunities, Doiron said NH’s community colleges represent an increasingly smart investment for students.

“It can be a program where you get some short-term skills training or a program where you get a two-year degree to take to a four-year college, or it can be a two-year degree and you go right to work,” she said. “Whatever it might be, we have all of those options, especially the kind of specialized technical skills training many four-year schools may not offer – and these are jobs that can pay $50,000 a year to start.”

Rob Levey is a freelance writer based in New Hampshire.

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