The next group of College to Career Program students will begin classes later this month, launching their accelerated journey to becoming medical assistants at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. The program, developed in 2016, pairs classroom learning at CCV-Brattleboro with clinical training at the Hospital. In just one semester, students get the education and training they need to begin a career in healthcare.

The program is a unique solution to a shortage of qualified medical assistants in the Brattleboro area, which mirrors the statewide deficit of workers throughout the healthcare system. “We were having major challenges recruiting for a significantly growing need for medical assistants as we grew our medical practices to serve Windham County,” said Steven Gordon, president and CEO of BMH. “It was really getting very difficult to recruit MAs, and we had to have a better way to do it and really to help in growing the pipeline for new medical assistants.” So BMH and CCV joined forces, using the College’s existing medical assisting certificate to develop the accelerated apprenticeship program. Each year, BMH recruits a class of no more than 20 students, offering full scholarships to eight applicants, along with guaranteed employment at the hospital upon program completion.

Sue Jones participated in the program in the fall of 2020, after COVID disrupted her career as a teacher. “The most rewarding part of the program is learning,” she shared. “Knowing the information taught was all relevant to the job of being an MA made it all interesting.” Jones is now retired from teaching and is working as a medical assistant at a family practice.

CCV was the right partner for this work, Gordon says, because the College can tailor programs to meet the needs of healthcare institutions. The impact has been “absolutely huge. To have a partnership where we can grow together to fill a very substantial need in our medical group has been a real game-changer.” In 2018, CCV and BMH used the College to Career program to design a similar program that trains workers for jobs in environmental services.

A steadfast champion of CCV—who received the College’s Community Service award at its 2019 commencement—Gordon will retire next spring after a 45-year career in hospital and health care systems. Ten of those years have been spent at BMH, where he has overseen major projects such as establishing a dental center in collaboration with United Way, working with Groundworks Collaborative, a local agency that supports those with housing and food insecurities, and renovating the Hospital’s Emergency department and front entrance. More than the infrastructure projects, though, he says the most rewarding work has been community outreach. “Those are the things, quite frankly, I’m most proud of…at the end of the day, it’s about serving those most vulnerable folks in the community and in partnership with the different agencies that we have.”

Gordon believes the medical assistant program can be a valuable blueprint as Vermont continues to face workforce shortages in healthcare. “I’m proud to have worked with [CCV President Joyce Judy] on this program,” he said. “I’ve held it up as a model.”

“We’ve got to look at continuously doing something different,” Gordon says—and innovative partnerships between higher education and healthcare just might be the answer.

Read Sandy Sherman’s story about becoming a medical assistant through the College to Career program.

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