Valley Glen - - Following the successful implementation of the three-year Healthcare Career Advancement Academy (CAA) program, Los Angeles Valley College (LAVC) Job Training has teamed up with Youth Policy Institute (YPI) to continue the program with a focus on helping individuals aged 21-24 establish their footing in a healthcare career. The first three years of the program were funded through Senate Bill 70 and, because it was so successful, Job Training and YPI were awarded funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to train and graduate hundreds of new students over the next nine months.
YPI is an organization that provides education, training, and technology assistance to help low-income families out of poverty. The three pillars of YPI, empowerment, hope, and access, are all qualities of the CAA program and parallel the mission of LAVC Job Training.
In uncertain economic times there continues to be an increase in the demand for skilled and qualified healthcare professionals. CAA is a bridge training program for unemployed or underemployed individuals. The program serves as a pipeline to college and high wage careers in the healthcare industry.
Job Training concluded classes for the first two CAA cohorts, presenting 43 participants with certificates of completion at a celebration on May 4, 2010. Student speaker, Joshua D. Harmon addressed the group, saying he and his classmates were thankful for the experience. “We’ve all come from different walks of life and I’m sure most of us have been let down in one way or another while searching for a career we can all call our own.” He said the course gave him confidence in his abilities and inspired him to move forward working in the healthcare field.
The CAA program consists of 80 hours of class taught over four weeks. The classes are contextualized for the healthcare industry and focus on reading, writing, math, customer service, and communication skills. Throughout the course, an emphasis is placed on critical thinking and rational decision-making for healthcare employees and on computer applications for the healthcare industry.
YPI recruits, screens, and registers students for the classes. The selected participants attend a mandatory orientation prior to class starting to learn the CAA requirements and expectations. Marcella Sardanis, CAA Program Coordinator and Student Adviser, said it’s important the students treat the CAA experience like they would a job. “They need to make a strong effort to be at class on time, every day, so they can fulfill their commitment. The rules we have in place mirror the kinds of expectations their future employers will require them to follow.”
Sardanis said maintaining a positive classroom setting is extremely important to the program. “We want the students to learn in a structured learning environment that inspires mutual respect and courtesy between themselves, their classmates, and their instructors.”
Many of the students in the program come from challenging backgrounds and may not have been in a classroom setting for years.
CAA graduate, Michelle A. Velasco, said she understood what a great accomplishment it was for her cohort to complete the program. “I’m so proud of my fellow classmates for staying committed. Although we all had prior commitments, we all chose to sit in the classroom for four weeks so we could have a better future,” she said.
Velasco shared the struggles she’d had in the last year. Her father became disabled and after suffering financially her family learned they were in danger of losing the house they’d lived in for 20 years. She decided to postpone starting college so she could work full-time and contribute to her family. “This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make since I knew I would have to put my career and dreams on hold,” she said. “I felt depressed not knowing where I was going, especially when I know I have the drive and intelligence to be successful in life.”
Velasco said the program helped her get back on track, and she wants to encourage others to participate. “If someone asked me if I would recommend the course to anyone, I would answer ‘definitely.’ This is a great program to start your medical career on the right path.”
Job Training Project Director, Doug Marriott, said, “The CAA is a customized bridge to employment opportunities and ongoing educational opportunities in health care. We understand that learning is a lifetime journey and we hope this was a positive first chapter in the ongoing success story of these students.”
Following successful completion of the CAA program, the students move to phase two where they select an area of focus from medical front office, Emergency Medical Technician, or Certified Nursing Assistant to get their medical skills vocational certificate. Once they obtain their vocational certificate they begin a 120 hour paid internship at a medical facility. Past facilities' students have worked with include Valley Presbyterian, Jewish Home for the Aged, and Mission Community Hospital.
The students are tested in reading and math before and after they complete the class to track their improvement over the four weeks. Over 50% of the students improved in reading and nearly 100% of the students improved in math, with some students advancing as many as six grade levels throughout the course.
Sardanis said the most rewarding part of her job is following the students over the four weeks of class and seeing the positive changes in their confidence and abilities. “The most exciting and encouraging part of coordinating this program is seeing how the program itself opens doors and new hope for individuals who had no hope for where life was taking them,” she said.
Sardanis said several students confided in her about their challenging home lives and their fears about their abilities to handle academia. “They discover they can be successful in this classroom setting and they find that academia is not as scary as they thought it would be. Sometimes all it takes is something as simple as someone believing in you.”
Harmon thanked the teachers, Job Training, and YPI on behalf of his classmates for all the support throughout the CAA program. “I hope that all who received the privilege to take part in this once in a lifetime opportunity will use the tools we’ve learned during these four short weeks to begin a better tomorrow.”
The YPI Reconnections Graduates (click on image for bigger picture)