Program aims to put people to work
By Lisa Tindell
Meeting the needs of employers and putting people to work is the main goal of a program currently underway through work of the Region 9 Southwest Alabama Workforce Development Council.
Teaming with Reid State Technical College, the Alabama Career Center in Brewton and Monroeville, and healthcare employers from Conecuh, Escambia, and Monroe Counties, SAWDC is overseeing a grant that has made funds available to train individuals in these three counties to become certified nursing assistants.
Darwin Bolden, Project Coordinator with SAWDC said, the grant is providing training for residents of the three counties as a result of employer demand of qualified CNA.
“We have taken a dual approach with this program,” Bolden said. “We assess the needs of the community and employ people. Currently, a total of 30 students are involved in the CNA program in two counties. The training is being held on-site at the Monroe Manor Health and Rehabilitation Center in Monroeville and Westgate Village Nursing Home in Brewton. All students are guaranteed employment by the employer members upon successful completion of the program. Other healthcare providers that are partners in this initiative include Atmore Nursing Care Center, Englewood Healthcare Center and Evergreen nursing and Rehabilitation Center.”
Mark Manning, director at Westgate Village, said the need for CNAs in the community is great and the training will be beneficial to the healthcare community in Escambia County as well as to each of the individuals receiving the training.
“We have 15 students in the Brewton program now,” Manning said. “And, when they complete the program, we will have 15 people who are ready to be employed. Fifteen people may not sound like much to some people, but that will be 15 people who are in the workforce and drawing a paycheck — that helps us all.”
The eight-week course – instructed by Kristen Averitt with Reid State – will provide the training individuals need in order to pass a state test to become certified, Bolden said.
“The grant pays for instruction costs as well as any materials needed for the course,” Bolden said. “There is no cost to the student other than getting to class.”
The funding for the program was made possible by the Community Foundation of South Alabama as part of their Economic Opportunity Priority area and the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, Bolden said. A similar program has been successful in Washington, Clarke, and Choctaw counties, he said.
Dr. Alesia Stuart, associate dean of workforce development at Reid State, has graciously partnered with the program to provide excellent instruction to help the students be prepared for state testing.
“As a prior resident of Monroe County with involvement in assisting prior workers in the area that lost employment with closures of Vanity Fair and numerous manufacturing facilities over the past few years, this program provided a great opportunity for training in Monroeville,” Stuart said. “With the exception of a Frisco City resident, each student lives in Monroeville. Specific community training not only provides educational options close to home but also reduces the students by alleviating the high cost of travel outside their home base.”
The classes for Escambia County students are being held onsite at Westgate Village with both Atmore and Brewton area students attending, Bolden said.
“We are happy to provide this facility for this training,” Manning said. “We want to do what we can to help create a workforce program that puts people to work. We continually use CNAs in our day-to-day work here and growing a field of eligible employees works good for everyone.”
Trenton McInnish, assistant director at Westgate, said the current class of CNA trainees is a young group, with a long-term potential for employment following completion of the course.
“This is a pretty young group of students,” McInnish said. “Most of them are just out of high school. This training is a great way to help them get started in the field of healthcare. What they learn through this training will open many doors for them down the road — especially if they hope to become a licensed practical nurse or registered nurse. There are so many opportunities for CNAs — hospice, home health, private care, and long-term care facilities. The possibilities are certainly more plentiful for those with the training and certification.”
Manning said he is happy to be a part of the group of partners who are working to make this program a success for Conecuh, Monroe, and Escambia County students.
“Working together, ordinary people can perform extraordinary feats,” Manning said. “They can push things that come into their hands a little higher up, a little further on towards the heights of excellence.”
The goal of the training program is to develop and implement a systematic and comprehensive program to recruit, train and upgrade the skills of new entry level healthcare professional for employment or career advancement in area hospitals and nursing facilities, Bolden said.
“We have had success in other counties and we expect success here in these three counties as well,” Bolden said. “The success of the program will give us an opportunity to work toward seeking additional funding that would provide more training opportunities as the needs of our employers and communities are assessed.”
Bolden said a graduation ceremony will be held for all students completing the program currently underway at the completion of training.
Bolden said a new series of classes may be in the future if additional funding can be found.