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MoHealthWINs Aims to Address Unemployment and Health Care Workforce Shortages

By Mike Sherry, for the KHI News Service, April 2, 2012

Kansas City-based Metropolitan Community College is on the front lines of a two-pronged push to reduce Missouri unemployment while addressing the growing need for health care workers.

The effort is coming through MoHealthWINs, a collaboration between the state’s 12 community colleges and Linn State Technical College.

The U.S. Department of Labor is funding the three-year, $20 million program. Plans call for Metropolitan Community College to serve more than a quarter of the roughly 3,200 workers Missouri has pledged to assist with retraining.

Free classes are scheduled to begin in late summer across all campuses.

Targeted jobs include everything from health information technologists to certified nursing aides, and technicians in areas such as pharmacy, maintenance and radiology. Coursework will range from three-day modules to 18-month certificate programs.

Officials said key components of MoHealthWINs would include: close coordination with employers, common standards across campuses to handle student mobility and eventual incorporation of the retraining classes into the offerings for all students.

Another hallmark is “stackable” curricula by which students can increase their skills by building upon previous coursework, according to Project Director Dawn Busick, who is working through the Missouri Community College Association.

That means, for example, that a factory maintenance worker could build upon earlier technology training to eventually work in radiology.

“So through this stackable credentialing,” Busick said, “you build these career pathways and these ladder rungs to move people through the industry, so they can see pay raises and sustain their families and themselves.”

After about seven months of planning, everybody involved is anxious to get started, said Elaine Mondschein, director of workforce development at Metropolitan Community College’s Institute for Workforce Innovation.

“This is the work we need to do,” Mondschein said, “and people are excited about doing it together.”

Local partners include Truman Medical Centers and the nonprofit Full Employment Council, which serves unemployed and underemployed workers in the Missouri counties of Jackson, Cass, Clay, Platte and Ray.

Metropolitan Community College is also working with Joe Brisson, a Lenexa-based health-information technology consultant and partner in Health eGRC, which specializes in implementing health information-exchange systems.

In addition to advising the community college on the types of systems students will need to know, Brisson wants Health eGRC to provide work experience for MoHealthWINs participants and other graduates of Metropolitan Community College.

He said he especially wants to assist safety-net providers establish their health-information exchange networks.

Large organizations such as Truman Medical Centers and Swope Health Services can manage this process, Brisson said, “but as soon as I get to be anybody else, how do I implement that.”

Missouri’s unemployment rate stood at 7.4 percent in February, according to the latest monthly figures released by the state Department of Economic Development. That’s the lowest mark since late 2008, but that still leaves more than 250,000 Missourians without jobs.

Meanwhile, the Department of Economic Development estimates that a number of health-care fields will be among the fastest growing in the state from 2008 through 2018. For instance, the department projects increases of nearly 40 percent for home health care positions and more than 21 percent for doctors’ office staff.

Under the federal grant, the 13-school consortium in Missouri hopes to establish or expand 19 health care job training programs and create seven new certification tracks.
The goal is that as many as 80 percent of the 3,200 participants will come out with some sort of credentialing.

“Certainly people will drop out,” Busick said. “Life happens.”

She said MoHealthWINs would be of particular help in meeting new state regulations for professionals that fit hearing devices. The regulations require a minimum of an associate’s degree in hearing instrument science.

With funding through the grant, Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield, Mo., is purchasing a mobile unit with a hearing lab inside. The unit will travel the state so students can meet their clinical requirements.

The start of classes through MoHealthWINs will culminate an effort that began in the fall of 2010, Busick said. That’s when the community colleges first got word from the administration of Gov. Jay Nixon that the retraining money was going to be available.

“We all got excited about what we could do if $20 million came to the Missouri,” Busick said. “Thank God we got ourselves organized and connected and were able to pull it off.”


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